FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org – (628)249-7946
Deputy Public Defender Eric McBurney’s Statement on Case Involving His Client Steven Jenkins
Includes Previously Unreleased Video Surveillance
“My name is Eric McBurney, the Deputy Public Defender representing Steven Jenkins, who was arrested on March 17, 2021, after witnesses saw him strike Xiao Zhen Xie at the corner of Market and 7th Streets in San Francisco. Mr. Jenkins is also accused of hitting Ngoc Pham that same day.
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.
However, 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 forty times immediately before he was seen striking Mr. Pham and Ms. Xiao. 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.
Right now, I cannot answer every question, but I wanted to share what we know so far from the video surveillance we are releasing today:
1) The morning of March 17, 2021, Mr. Jenkins suffered an unprovoked assault by multiple unknown parties at UN Plaza. Surveillance video showed him as the victim of a group attack in broad daylight while pedestrians went about their business near the Farmers’ Market. Following that initial assault by three people, another unidentified man followed Mr. Jenkins and struck him multiple times as he was walking away. In irregular bursts, the attack on Mr. Jenkins lasted over three minutes, during which time he was hit 45 times and sustained multiple blows to the head.
2) As he walked away from his own assailants, Mr. Jenkins’s face was bloodied, he was disoriented and possibly concussed.
3) 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 twenty seconds before Mr. Jenkins stuck Ms. Xiao. Ms. Xiao was standing near a pole at the corner of Market and 7th Streets. She 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.
Steven Jenkins is a thirty-nine-year-old homeless man with mental health issues. What happened that day was not the norm for him. He has no prior convictions for physically hurting anyone. He has struggled throughout his life on the street, largely ignored by society. Even when he is attacked and hit over 40 times in broad daylight in the busy UN plaza, not one person comes to his aid.
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.”