By Lovepreet Dhinsa
SAN FRANCISCO – Deputy Public Defender Eric McBurney—who represents Steven Jenkins, arrested on March 17, 2021, for striking grandmother Xiao Zhen Xie—Thursday released a statement arguing his client was a victim of violence that day before the incident occurred on the corner of Market and 7th Streets.
“These are two deeply troubling assaults of elderly Asian Americans in our community, at a time when Asian Americans locally and nationally are suffering from an escalation of violence and anti-Asian racism. As an immigrant from Taiwan myself, I understand why there has been so much concern about this case and I have great sympathy for Mr. Pham, Ms. Xiao, and their families,” said McBurney.
But the PD added that “this situation is much more complex than it may appear. Based on the facts that I have reviewed, I do not believe that Mr. Jenkins’s actions were racially motivated. On that day, Mr. Jenkins himself was the victim of an unprovoked attack by four unknown assailants who struck him over 40 times immediately before he was seen striking Mr. Pham and Ms. Xiao.”
“This situation is a tragedy on many fronts. There were three victims of assault that terrible morning: Ms. Xiao, Mr. Pham, and indeed Mr. Jenkins himself,” noted McBurney.
“Due to the initial attack, Mr. Jenkins suffered multiple head injuries, and I believe that he was in a diminished mental state, and disoriented as a result, when he encountered Mr. Pham and Ms. Xiao just moments later,” said McBurney.
And, the defense counsel added, there are certain facts that are missing from the case. In order to prove racial motivation for this incident, more evidence would have to be found.
Citing the surveillance video, PD McBurney believes that his client, Jenkins, was the victim of an attack conducted by four unknown individuals. These individuals struck the defendant multiple times, over 45 times, before he attempted to flee from them.
“As Jenkins walked away from his own assailants, Mr. Jenkins’s face was bloodied, he was disoriented and possibly concussed,” said McBurney.
“When Mr. Jenkins encountered Ms. Xiao three minutes later, he was being pursued by his fourth assailant who had just hit him multiple times approximately 20 seconds before Mr. Jenkins stuck Ms. Xiao. Ms. Xiao…was wearing a hat and a mask. Mr. Jenkins hit her one time before a security guard ran over and tackled him to the ground,” said the PD.
News reports and video show that while the defendant was on the ground, another officer showed up at the scene and Xiao began hitting the defendant with her walking cane, and continued to strike the defendant with her cane more than eight times while he was on the floor before she was asked to stop, said the PD.
McBurney shared that not only is Jenkins houseless, but he also suffers from severe mental health issues. The defendant has no prior convictions for assaulting anyone. Further, the security guard nearby witnessed the defendant being attacked, but did not step in. Yet, he came rushing when Xiao was struck.
According to PD McBurney, the defendant has lived on the streets for a large part of his life and has been “largely ignored by society.” On the day of March 17 “there were three victims of assault that terrible morning: Ms. Xiao, Mr. Pham, and indeed Mr. Jenkins himself.”
Lovepreet Dhinsa is a junior undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Politics with a minor in Legal Studies. She has a passion for criminal defense law, and strives to go to law school to fight for indigent clients. As such, she is also involved in her university’s mock trial program and student government.
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