NEW YORK – A woman who was seen on surveillance video attacking two Asian women because they were wearing masks and striking one with a hammer has been arrested, police said.
Detectives with New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force took the suspect into custody Wednesday afternoon. Ebony Jackson, 37, was charged with felony assault, felony criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, police said.
The incident comes amid a wave of anti-Asian violence in New York and across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, which experts say has grown in 2021 despite public awareness campaigns and increased policing efforts around hate crimes.
The attack happened May 2 as the two women, ages 31 and 29, were walking on the sidewalk in Manhattan's Hells Kitchen neighborhood around 8:40 p.m.
The suspect, who the two victims did not know, approached them and demanded they remove their masks. The woman then hit the 31-year-old in the head with a hammer, police said.
Surveillance video released by police shows the alleged attacker walking beside the two woman under scaffolding before she swings at them multiple times.
“She was talking to herself ... I thought maybe she was drunk or something, so we just wanted to pass through her quickly,” the victim, identified by only her first name, Theresa, told ABC7. “When I passed through her, she saw us and said ‘Take off your f------ mask,' which is shocking.”
The TV station reported the woman was rushed to the hospital and needed stitches.
She told ABC7 she and her friend were walking to the subway and decided it was safer to walk together.
In Atlanta, a gunman accused of killing eight people, mostly women of Asian descent, in a string of shootings at spas, was indicted Tuesday on domestic terror and murder charges. Prosecutors signaled they would also seek hate crime charges.
In New York City, police have increased patrols in predominately Asian neighborhoods, including using undercover officers, in efforts to curb the spate of crimes. According to NYPD, there have been 81 anti-Asian hate crimes reported this year through May 9. Last year through the same time period, there were 17.
A report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found a more than 164% increase in anti-Asian hate crime reports to police in the first quarter of 2021 in 16 major cities and jurisdictions compared with last year.
Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks such attacks, also documented more than 6,600 hate incidents from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through March 31.
Contributing: Elinor Aspegren, N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Christal Hayes
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anti-Asian attack in NYC: Women arrested in Manhattan hammer assault