Suspect In Alleged Anti-Asian Attack Has History Of Arrests, Raising Questions About What Went Wrong

We've been reporting on the recent attacks against Asian people. Tonight, we're taking a closer look at one of the suspects, a man who is no stranger to law enforcement. Alexander Wright's history of arrests is raising questions about what went wrong; CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports.

Video Transcript

- We have been reporting on the series of recent attacks against Asian people. And tonight, we're taking a closer look at one of the suspects, a man who is no stranger to law enforcement.

- His name is Alexander Wright, and his history of arrests is raising some new questions about what went wrong. CBS 2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas explains.

- Alexander Write's long list of arrests date back more than a decade and progressively became more violent. On May 27 just days before his Chinatown arrest, Wright pleaded guilty to throwing hot coffee in a traffic officer's face in January and attacking a man on East 72nd Street in Madison Avenue weeks earlier. The judge allowed Wright's release on the condition that he complete five sessions with Manhattan justice that aims to connect offenders with community based social services.

- People that are arrested multiple, multiple, multiple times and released. You know mental illness is woven into this. Potentially, we have to do better.

- Wright is homeless and has been to jail numerous times. Bail has been set repeatedly. And at least in Manhattan, a judge has not ordered a psychological evaluation according to the district attorney.

- Rikers Island is the largest mental health provider in the United States. And that's very problematic.

- Public defender Jeffrey Berman says generally, there are too many barriers to getting interventions earlier for mental health and substance abuse especially in Manhattan.

- Prosecutors who are the ones who decide who wins the lottery to receive court mandated treatment as part of their criminal case and who will instead go to prison.

- After serving time, many people are released into shelters, their lives destabilize. The mayor tells additional investments made into providing support. All while innocent victims bear the brunt of the disconnect.

- It's putting new Yorkers at risk. I mean, this is just-- it is craziness.

- That's why state lawmakers are advocating for what's described as groundbreaking legislation dubbed the treatment not jails act that would mandate a more comprehensive continuum of mental health support for those in the legal system.

- We need to let health care providers make decisions on what is the appropriate treatment not judges and not prosecutors.

- Attempts to slow the revolving door of crime by addressing the root of the problem. Aundrea Cline-Thomas CBS 2 News.

- The treatment not jails legislation is currently making its way through the legislative process. It's sponsored by Queen state Senator Jessica Ramos whose district borders represent it.