Exclusive: Asian woman brutally attacked on video speaks out

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A 65-year-old Asian woman is speaking exclusively to Eyewitness News after she was viciously attacked in Midtown in a horrific incident that made national headlines.

Surveillance video of the beating outraged the city and led to two doormen getting fired as they watched the assault play out in front of their building.

Police arrested a suspect who was on parole after serving 17 years in prison for fatally stabbing his own mother.

The case helped raise awareness to the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

"It's so surreal watching that incident and looking at myself being attacked," Vilma Kari said.

Kari, an American citizen who settled in Chicago and became widowed in 2012, was staying with her only child in New York City, when she decided to kick off Holy Week and visit a new church near a friend in Times Square.

Her path to noon mass would pass 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, who punched her in the face, then continued to kick her head against the sidewalk repeatedly.

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Elliot, is charged with two counts of second-degree assault as a hate crime and one count of first-degree attempted assault as a hate crime.

"And it was actually my friends that started forwarding me videos that evening once I got home from the hospital, and I had to look at it a few times and just think, that's the outfit, this kind of matches what I heard her tell me," daughter Liz Kari said. "And then I really had it all sink in in one moment, and just almost had a little bit of a panic attack."

The unprovoked attack happened just before noon on March 29 in front of 360 West 43rd Street, where authorities say the victim was kicked and fell to the ground as the suspect made anti-Asian statements toward her.

"I remember sitting next to my boyfriend and just crying on my sofa, saying, 'But that's my mom. How is this possible? This is my mom,'" Liz Kari said. "And just shaking and not knowing what to do. I'd like to think it was my dad walking with her, walking along to make sure she was okay. I'm just so incredibly thankful to God it wasn't worse."


Vilma Kari is recovering from her serious injuries and concentrating on healing emotionally and physically.

Her pelvis broke when she was knocked to the ground and she's not quite ready to show her face yet, but the family said they are speaking out to thank people around the world for the outpouring of support and want to raise awareness about racism not just against Asian American-Pacific Islanders, but all victims of bias crime.

"I'm doing well feeling well, getting better each day, getting better each day," Kari said.

But people from around the globe were angry because of the onslaught of their reactions. Liz Kari began a GoFundMe page to give updates on her mother's condition and help with care.

"People were wanting to help and looking for a resource to contacting my mom," Liz Kari said.

Then a strange thing happened. Liz Kari says people started sharing their stories with her about being a Filipino American and experiencing some kind of discrimination or being the target of a hate crime.

Subway slashing victim Noel Quintana also spoke out on a forum with the consulate of the Philippines in New York City, which announced a hotline to report hate crimes.

So many people locally and even from as far away as Australia and Ireland are reaching out.

The family will take this moment as they said to "be louder" and stand up against hate crimes.

If convicted, Elliot faces up to 25 years in prison, as well as other consequences related to his lifetime parole.

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