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Asian-American victim still lives in fear 3 years after hate-fueled Times Square attack

Vilma Kari, the Asian American woman who was beaten in a vicious hate-fueled attack in Times Square three years ago, is still living in fear and afraid to be alone in public, she revealed in a new interview.

The 65-year-old woman’s life changed when convicted murderer Brandon Elliot, 41, shoved her to the ground and kicked her in the head several times outside 360 W. 43rd St. as onlookers did nothing.

Elliot was sentenced to 15 years in prison last month for the March 2021 attack — but Kari, who is of Filipino descent, is still mentally recovering from the hate crime, which left her with a fractured pelvis and head injuries.

“As I told Mr. Eliot —  ‘you put fear in my heart.’ And that fear will linger,” Kari told NBC News NOW’s “Top Story with Tom Llamas” in an interview that aired Tuesday.

Vilma Kari was attacked in Midtown on March 29, 2021. NBC
Vilma Kari was attacked in Midtown on March 29, 2021. NBC
CCTV footage captured the vicious hate attack on Vilma Kari. The Brodsky Organization
CCTV footage captured the vicious hate attack on Vilma Kari. The Brodsky Organization

“I have fear of going out by myself, I have fear of being around people,” she said.

A survey from the Asian American Foundation published last week revealed that one out of every five Asian Americans in New York City has been physically assaulted due to their race over the last year.

Alarmingly, more than half of those who were subjected to a hate incident, 54%, declined to report it to anybody, the survey found.

“The anti-Asian hate rhetoric and violence that targeted the AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] community in 2020 has not stopped,” Norman Chen, CEO of TAAF, said in response to the survey results.

The attack came amid a nationwide surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.
The attack came amid a nationwide surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.

“We’re seeing this in the continued hate, violence, and distrust towards Asian Americans New Yorkers. The othering of our community contributes not only to discrimination and prejudice in public spaces, but also erodes any efforts toward equity and inclusivity for AAPIs,” he added.

Kari told NBC that she didn’t realize at that time that she was experiencing a hate crime when Elliot assaulted her.

Surveillance video from the attack went viral as the country experienced a massive surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brandon Elliot was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February.
Brandon Elliot was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February.

“At that moment I was not really thinking about all those things,” she said. “I’m just focusing on the pain — how am I going to walk? How am I going to bathe? How am I going to eat? Just the daily life.”

Elliot did yell at her during the attack, “F— you, you don’t belong here,” prosecutors said.

But even as the footage went viral, Kari wanted to keep quiet about it.

“Mom was in a mentality of she really didn’t want anybody to know,” Kari’s daughter, Liz Kari, said in the NBC News Now interview.

“She felt like she wanted to deal with her pain and understand the incident and really didn’t want to make a big commotion about it,” she said.

Elliot, who was out on parole after murdering his mother in 2002, was tracked down and arrested two days later and charged with assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime.

He pleaded guilty in December one count each of assault in the first degree as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.