Seniors in Visitacion Valley feel a substantially reduced level of safety after an attack early Tuesday morning left an 88-year-old woman in critical condition, her family says.
Police found the longtime neighborhood resident Yik Oi Huang in the park next to Visitacion Valley Elementary School after responding to a call about nearby at a nearby residence. They are seeking the public’s help in identifying the suspect or suspects, as Huang is not yet able to, but do not have any description details. Any video or images from around 6:30 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. could be of immense help, says Ingleside Station Capt. Jack Hart.
Though police declined to provide details pending investigation, the victim’s granddaughter Sasanna Yee said in a viral Facebook post that a suspect did not find valuables in Huang’s home “so they drag and beat her up to a bloody pulp in the park.” In a Facebook live video hours after the attack, a neighbor named Virginia told Yee that she was leaving her home to catch the bus when she noticed Wang’s front door was open but no lights were on.
The neighbor went to check on Wang but came across a man in the house, shouted and called her daughter. She described the man as skinny, wearing a jacket and a hood who left the house on foot and walked toward Bayshore Boulevard. Yee lives three blocks from Huang, and ran over when she heard about the attack from her mother.
“It’s pretty bad. I hope she can make it,” Yee said in the video. “It’s a pretty fucking terrible thing, and this is the second time her house has been broken into. I’m tired of this and I want there to be peace in the southeast.”
Details of her injuries were not provided but Hart said that they are “extensive enough” to remain in the ICU at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and has not yet been able to communicate. At a press conference on late Wednesday afternoon, supervisors Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen, and President of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee denounced the violence with Yee.
“It is heartbreaking to see this type of senseless violence in our community and no one should ever endure this level of barbarism,” Walton said. “We will not tolerate acts of violence in our community.”
Huang was described as a “rosy-cheeked, jolly grandmother” and great-grandmother who has a radiant heart that she kept healthy with regular exercise. Early into press questioning, Yee said that the hardest part was not knowing if her grandmother would make it through. By the end, she stood firm and said that Huang had made it through worse migrating from China about 35 years ago and working as a seamstress, and would pull through.
Walton renewed calls for the addition of a police substation to Visitacion Valley, similar to the bilingual one opened in Portola in June. Ronen added that there is no estimated financial figure for one on Leland Avenue yet but that partnerships with nonprofits or storefronts combined with foot patrols would figure into increased police presence. Supervisors emphasized the need for officers that also speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish.
“We need culturally competent police officers. We need to find them now,” Yee said. “We need to be aggressive. We can’t just say ‘Oh nobody applied’ —we need to get them.”
Marlene Tran of the Visitacion Valley says the language access is a huge barrier to reaching Asian communities, especially ones from countries with politically repressive governments that have made them wary to trust the police. Seniors in the area are now afraid to go on their usual routines by themselves, be it riding on the bus or exercising in the park like Huang usually did.
“People are so scared because we have a huge senior population,” Tran said. “This is a huge shock to the community.”
Walton will be holding a community meeting in the coming days to further the conversation. The San Francisco Police Department asks that any individuals who have any information contact the 24/7 tip line at 415-575-4444 or text ‘SFPD’ to TIP411. You may remain anonymous on both.
“We have to unite. This is a very heinous act yet it also brings light to many dark places in our society and in our communities,” Yee said at the press conference. “In crisis we have an opportunity to heal.”
Or, as she broadcasted with raw emotions in the hours after the attack: “Can we just all come together? The neighborhood here is made up of Chinese, Asians, Filipinos, Samoans, Black people, and we’re all living in fear of each other, and it’s just not right.”
Note: This article has been updated to reflect Huang’s legal age. Her family identified Huang as 89 years old but police have since said she is 88 years old.