On Thursday, demonstrators stood outside a San Francisco courtroom to support 84-year-old Rong Xin Liao as he testified against the man who allegedly jump-kicked him while he was sitting in his wheelchair in 2020, reports KPIX.
Liao only speaks Cantonese and used interpreters to express his gratitude for the support.
In February last year, Liao was waiting at a San Francisco bus stop in his wheelchair when Eric Ramos Hernandez allegedly ran up and brutally jump-kicked Liao, knocking him to the ground headfirst, causing him to black out and require several stitches.
Hernandez reportedly spent seven months in prison and then was placed on a mental health diversion program, according to Yahoo! News, but Liao had wanted “strict punishment.”
“We were not aware of a potential misunderstanding until months later, when Mr. Liao’s grandson spoke to the press,” said the statement from the district attorney’s office to KPIX. “Since then, attorneys in our office and members of our victim services division have repeatedly offered to meet with Mr. Liao but were told that communication with Mr. Liao would need to go through his own retained attorney.”
“This incident of last year was not racially motivated but rather, from his untreated mental health issues,” said Sylvia Cediel, the public defender for Hernandez, according to NBC Bay Area.
After release, Hernandez was arrested for trespassing, which Thursday’s judge stated was a non-violent misdemeanor. With Liao’s attack, Hernandez was charged with elder abuse and not a hate crime.
“I love the United States. I feel very safe here,” Liao said in Cantonese. “When I got attacked, I became very afraid.”
The court will reconvene on December 7, when a decision will be made as to whether Hernandez goes to jail or stays on mental health diversion.
“We want the community to know that when something happens there are people behind him and we’re not letting any cases go under the rug and we’re not going to be silent anymore,” said demonstration organizer Leanna Louie.
This video shows the brutal attack (content warning: physical assault, violence):
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