A man has been arrested in an unprovoked attack on an Asian American woman and her boyfriend, Seattle police said Thursday.
Sean Holdip, 41, is accused of assaulting Noriko Nasu, a high school teacher, and her boyfriend, on Feb. 25 as they walked in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, according to police and media reports.
Holdip was carrying a sock with a hard object inside it and he used that to attack Nasu, Sgt. Randall Huserik, a spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department, told McClatchy News in an email.
Nasu was severely injured and hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center, according to KIRO. She suffered “extensive fractures to her face and teeth,” the news station reported.
“I truly believe he was trying to kill us,” Nasu’s boyfriend, Michael Poffenbarger, told KOMO. Poffenbarger said he was hit in the head and needed eight stitches., but that she was the target of the attack.
“It was very very deliberate and really focused on her,” he told KOMO. “It was a pointed attack on her.”
The police department’s Bias Crime Unit investigated the attack “but there wasn’t anything in the narrative from the incident to indicate that the assault was racially motivated,” Huserik said.
Holdip was booked into the King County Jail Thursday morning on two charges of assault. He has been denied bail, records show.
Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore School District, where Nasu teaches, questioned in a blog post if the attack was racially motivated.
“I am writing today to share my concerns regarding the current trend in increasing violence directed at Asian community members both in our state and across our country,” Reid wrote. “A member of our own Northshore staff family, Sensei Noriko Nasu, was brutally attacked while walking with her partner in Seattle ... The police are currently investigating the attack to determine whether it was a hate crime or a random attack, this assault should never have happened.”
With politicians — including former President Donald Trump — and others calling the coronarvirus the “China virus,” hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, from Seattle to across the United States.
During a media briefing Tuesday, Leandra Craft, King County deputy prosecuting attorney, acknowledged that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we’re seeing nationally is Asian American communities are getting attacked at an increasingly alarming rate based on the negative thoughts that Asian Americans are more likely the reason, the inaccurate thoughts that Asian Americans are the reason why COVID is spreading,” Craft said.
The Seattle area has been targeted by white nationalists in the past and has seen an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to a news release from the Seattle Police Department.
Seattle police have received 14 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in the city last year, which is nine more than 2019 and six more than 2018. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged 59 hate crimes in 2020, which was up by 20 cases the year prior and 29 more than 2018, KING reported.
Voice of America reports that “there were 122 incidents of anti-Asian American hate crimes in 16 of the country’s most populous cities in 2020, an increase of almost 150% over the previous year, according to data compiled by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.”
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian hate and discrimination amid the COVID-19 pandemic, received 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia between March 19 and Dec. 31 of last year, according to a February news release from the organization.