Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Thursday that Jarrod Powell, 50, had been charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment in the April 23 attack on Yao Pan Ma.
Ma died on New Year’s Eve after spending nearly eight months in the hospital following the attack.
“The devastating death of Yao Pan Ma, a beloved father of two, occurred amidst a surge of anti-Asian attacks targeting our families, friends, neighbors, and New York values,” Bragg said in a statement. “As alleged, Jarrod Powell selectively attacked Mr. Ma for no other reason than his race.”
Citing the indictment and statements made on the record in court, Bragg’s office said the attack had unfolded at around 8:15 p.m. April 23.
Ron Kim, a member of the New York State Assembly who had been in touch with Ma’s family, previously said Ma had been out collecting cans to contribute to rent when he was attacked.
Powell is alleged to have run up to Ma from behind, before striking and knocking him to the ground.
Powell is accused of then stomping on Ma’s head multiple times and repeatedly kicking him in the head, face and neck.
Surveillance video released by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force appeared to show the attack.
The defendant then allegedly fled the scene as Ma lay unconscious on the street corner where the attack unfolded, according to Bragg’s office.
A bus driver who had been stopped at a traffic light and witnessed the attack flagged down a nearby ambulance, with first responders taking Ma to a hospital, where he was treated for facial fractures and bleeding on the brain.
Ma sustained a traumatic brain injury and had to be placed on life support.
Powell was arrested April 27 on multiple felony charges of attempted murder and hate crimes after being identified via video surveillance.
He pleaded not guilty to the initial charges at his June 22 arraignment. It was expected that his charges would be upgraded following a homicide ruling in Ma’s death.
Following his arrest, Powell made statements to law enforcement in which he said he had been attacked by two Korean or Japanese men the day before he allegedly launched his assault on Ma, according to Bragg’s office.
The defendant said he did not report the alleged attack to police and did not provide a description of his alleged attackers beyond their racial identities.
The attack unfolded in the midst of a wave of racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans across the country.
The rise in hate crimes was first identified in March and April 2020, around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and amid “negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic,” according to an analysis of official preliminary police data by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
On Thursday, Bragg said his office was currently prosecuting at least 33 hate crime cases “driven by anti-Asian bias,” which he said was “unfortunately, the most we have had since our Hate Crimes Unit was established in 2010.”
The Manhattan D.A.’s Office said it has prosecuted nearly four times more anti-Asian hate crimes in 2021 than in the previous year in the midst of a “significant increase in anti-Asian hate crimes investigations.”
“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we, as prosecutors and as New Yorkers, remain vigilant and forcefully reject bias-fueled crimes in our communities,” Bragg said.
He urged residents to consider his office a safe place to report crimes, regardless of immigration status.
Those in New York who have been a victim or witness to a hate crime or bias incident have been asked to call the Hate Crimes Hotline at 212-335-3100.