Elderly Thai man in San Francisco killed by teen in unprovoked attack

Vicha Ratanapakdee as he is knocked to the ground Thursday by an attacker later identified as 19-year-old Antoine Watson in San Francisco, at left, and Vicha in an undated photo, at right.
Vicha Ratanapakdee as he is knocked to the ground Thursday by an attacker later identified as 19-year-old Antoine Watson in San Francisco, at left, and Vicha in an undated photo, at right.

The family of a Thai senior citizen who died after being violently knocked to the ground in San Francisco is seeking justice and blaming anti-Asian racism for his death.

Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was on a Thursday morning walk in the city’s Anza Vista neighborhood when a young man charged and barreled into him at full speed. Racism is suspected in the unprovoked attack, which sent Vicha sprawling hard to the ground and evidently hitting his head against a closed garage door. 

Vicha was later rushed to a hospital, where he died two days later on Saturday. 

Antoine Watson, 19, was arrested later that day and charged with murder, elder abuse and assault. His associate, 20-year-old Malaysia Goo, was also arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the attack after she was spotted fleeing the scene with Watson in CCTV footage of the attack.

The attack has drawn significant attention in San Francisco’s Asian-American community as an example of the hate-fueled violence which has surged since the pandemic began last year, fanned by those pinning blame on China.

Update: Thais in L.A. to rally against anti-Asian racism and for #JusticeforVicha

Vicha’s family believes the attack was motivated by hate. Eric Lawson, Vicha’s son-in-law, wrote in a crowdfund appeal for Vicha’s memorial and funeral that it was “COVID-19 fueled anti-Asian racism.”

Our family has endured multiple verbal Anti-Asian attacks since the beginning of the pandemic, this time it was fatal,” he wrote. “Racism has once again proven deadly. Anti-Asian racism has become a very serious danger to all Asian Americans, particularly in San Francisco. It’s time the authorities took serious action to combat it.”

Update: ‘I felt really disgusted’: L.A. artist says after slain Thai becomes symbol of racist violence

Vicha, who spelled his name Vichar on social media, reportedly relocated from Thailand to San Francisco to help care for his grandchildren. According to the Facebook page believed to be his, he was originally from Songkhla. Nearly all of the photos posted there are of a smiling Vicha with two young boys.

The platform, which has raised over USD$4,900 since last night, also calls for justice as it claims the suspects were later released.

“Now that Mr.Vicha Ratanapakdee has died of his injuries, prosecution for this murderous hate crime is the only path to justice and community safety,” Lawson added.

Ed. note: This story originally spelled the man’s name as Vichar as that was the spelling he used on his social media. It also cited media reports that Lawson was his step-son; in fact, he was his son-in-law.

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: CRIME

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