Remembering one of the earliest modern day cases of Asian hate
By Gilda Balan, Correspondent
SAN FRANCISCO — It has been five years since an apparent case of Asian hate saw an 88-year-old grandmother mercilessly assaulted in a San Francisco park, with the injuries she sustained causing her eventual demise.
In the five years, or half a decade, since the crime, the alleged perpetrator has been caught and remains under detention. But he has not been tried and sentenced.
In stark contrast to “Grandma Huang’s” age is the suspect, who was a mere 18 years old at the time of the attack.
Yik Oi Huang was beaten in January 2019 at a park in Visitacion Valley. Police arrested prime suspect Keonte Gathron, who has remained in detention since.
Grandma Huang passed away a year later, in January 2020. She was 89. San Francisco honored her by renaming the park where the assault took place after her.
Her family and friends have not had the closure they seek because the case against Gathron remains pending.
Huang’s granddaughter, Sasanna Yee, says she feels helpless at the slow pace of San Francisco’s criminal justice system.
“It’s painful to still have these open and unanswered questions,” she says.
One of the mitigating factors in the delay in the case was the change in the city’s district attorney midway. The case against Gathron was also upgraded from attempted murder to murder. Huang had succumbed to numerous blows to the head.
This, after Gathron had been found to have engaged in a crime spree in the days before and after the fatal attack, including robberies and a carjacking.
He has entered a plea of not guilty.
Current DA Brooke Jenkins said she will pursue the case no matter how long it takes. She recently secured a conviction of a homicide case that dates way back to 2010.
The case of a very senior victim from San Francisco assaulted by a teenager would be repeated a couple of years later.
Thai-American “Grandpa” Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was pushed to death, allegedly by 19-year-old Antoine Watson. The street where he was fatally assaulted was later renamed after Ratanapakdee, while the case against Watson also remains pending.
Gathron’s next court date is this week, while Watson’s case is likely to go before a jury this spring.
Sasanna Yee says her family is ready to forgive and reconcile with Gathron.
“I hope there’s something that supports his healing,” she said, “So that he can understand what he’s done wrong.”
“He has so much life ahead,” she added, “I still want the best for him.”