southern-california-man-charged-with-hate-crime-in-attack-on-elderly-asian-couple

A Southern California man accused of punching an elderly Asian couple in an unprovoked attack has been charged with hate crimes, the Orange County district attorney said Wednesday.

After an attack on a Korean couple in a park Sunday, Michael Orlando Vivona, 26, of Orange, was surrounded by people until officers arrived and arrested him, according to Orange police.

Vivona was charged with two felony counts of elder abuse and two felony counts of battery–hate crime causing injury, and he also faces two felony hate crime enhancements, District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.

He’s also under investigation in connection with a verbal attack on U.S. Olympic karate athlete Sakura Kokumai at the same park April 1, according to the statement.

Kokumai the next day posted videothat showed a man threatening her, telling her to “go home” and using the words “Chinese” and “disgusting.” Kokumai, who is Japanese American, was born in Honolulu.

The attacks come amid an increase in the number of anti-Asian hate crimes in some parts of the country. In New York City, police in August set up a task force in response.

The people attacked Sunday evening in Grijalva Park, 78 and 79 years old, were on a walk around 7:40 p.m. when, officials alleged, Vivona ran up to them, punched the man in the face and then punched the woman.

After his arrest, “Vivona later made statements to police disparaging Asians,” Spitzer’s office said.

Vivona has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, according to online court records. He is being held in lieu of $65,000 bail, according to the district attorney’s office.

Records indicate that a public defender is representing Vivona, but after-hours contact information could not immediately be found Wednesday night. A number for Vivona’s home could not immediately be found.

Kokumai told NBC News this month that she was out for a jog April 1 when the incident occurred.

“When he walked closer, that’s where I did get scared a little bit, because you just never know what could happen,” she said.

She described being in “fight-or-flight mode” during the encounter and used the incident to remind the Asian American and Pacific Islander community that they are not alone and to encourage people to step up and look out for one another.

Image: Phil helselPhil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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