My thoughts on the “random” assault, death of 68-year old Chinese immigrant in Alphabet City

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I’ve had so many thoughts running through my head when I first read the news story about 20-year old Jamie Pugh attacking and ultimately killing 68-year old Wen Hui Ruan last Friday in Alphabet City. 

I spent much of the day in and out of my brain thinking about how to write a post about it. Basically, my thoughts about the incident fell into four buckets.

The “Normal” Feelings

I went through the normal reactions that you’d expect to feel about a young adult taking advantage and victimizing someone that could be his grandfather. Ruan was nearly 70 years old – almost 5 decades older — and had just dropped off his granddaughters on his way home. A Chinese immigrant, Ruan spent a couple decades working in garment factory before retiring a few years ago. From this angle, I could have run across this story back in San Francisco and still be disgusted and angry, but this one has a couple extra layers for me.

Close to Home

Proximity-wise, this was really close to home. I live in Alphabet City and live very close to both the attack and subsequent arrest. The attack happened on 745 East 6th street near Avenue D, very close to where Ruan has lived for 20 years. Pugh was arrested on 14th street and Avenue A.

I don’t fear living in the East Village/ABC City, but all it takes is one “random” (see next point) act of violence to really fuck up someone’s mindset.

It Wasn’t That Late

Another alarming piece of data was that Ruan was attacked at 8:45 PM. Unless you’re my mom, 8:45 isn’t that late. I always assumed that these type of assaults occurred later in the night and the hours past midnight.

This map shows homocides in Alphabet City from 2003-2011

After looking at the above New York Times map of NYC  homocides that occurred in Alphabet City from 2003-2011, that’s not always true. It’s definitely more likely at 4 AM, but it can happen at anytime of the day. That’s certainly not comforting.

It Was a Hate Crime

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know for sure and probably will never know. What I do know is my experience as an Asian-American, and I can’t help but feel strongly that Wen Hui Ruan was not just some random attack.

My belief is that he was chosen because he was old, and also because he was Asian. Both identities give off the sense of an “easy target”. And if Pugh was so hopped up on molly and did’t know what he was doing, why did Pugh walk past a mother and her child to get to Ruan?  My point is whether he was on drugs or not, whatever his mindset, there’s a reason he preyed on Ruan.

And when someone doesn’t speak or understand the same language? It makes it all the easier to see them and treat them less than a human much less a brother, father, or grandfather. Watch Pugh throw Ruan into a cement wall, punch him in the face, and then savagely stomp on 68-year old Ruan’s head three times and tell me there isn’t anything extra than a regular assault.

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