SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- An elderly Filipino woman who was attacked on the trolley last month shared her story with ABC 10News.
She is being identified only as Lola, a word that means grandmother in the Philippines. She said the attack last month still haunts her.
Through a translator, she said in Tagalog that she still cries when she recalls the incident. Lola said she had just visited a friend and was riding the trolley from Encanto to Downtown San Diego. She thought a fellow passenger was going to transfer trolleys, but instead she became the victim of an unprovoked attack.
“He punched me,” Lola said. “It’s very hard and then I cried… please, please help me!”
Lola said the man tried to grab her. Witnesses helped her until police arrived. She told ABC 10News she is thankful to God she’s still alive.
Police arrested James Winslow in connection with the attack. A police spokesperson said he faces assault with a deadly weapon with an elder abuse enhancement.
He is scheduled for his next court appearance later this month.
The trolley incident was not deemed a hate crime. However, attacks on elderly Asian Americans have been caught on video throughout the country.
84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, a native of Thailand, was on a morning walk in the San Francisco area when he was tackled in January. His head slammed the pavement and he died days later.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that has been tracking incidents since the start of the pandemic, there have been 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate since March 19, 2020 to end of February 2021. There were more than 500 incidents this year.
Police encourage victims not to stay silent.
“We can’t do anything about it if we don’t know that it’s happening,” said Lt. Al Ambito with the San Diego Police Department. “We do take it seriously, especially with this incident that happened to Lola.”
The bruising on Lola’s head is gone, but she said she still feels some pain when she puts pressure on it.
“It’s been over a month and we know you don’t get over something like this trauma overnight,” said local advocate JoAnn Fields with the Filipino Resource Center.
Several community groups, including I Am My Brother’s Keeper and Paving Great Futures, organized donations for Lola on Tuesday. She received boxes of food and supplies.
ABC 10News first contacted MTS after the incident in February and requested release of the video. A spokesperson wrote: “Not sure if it’s available pending an investigation. Honestly though… the suspect is without a home and has mental health challenges… you’ve done a couple of stories… can’t you let it go?”
He then directed ABC 10News to the District Attorney’s Office.
Fields said more light—not less—needs to be shined on incidents like Lola’s.
“That does make me angry, but I try to redirect that energy into advocacy,” Fields said.
For Lola, she’s grateful that those in the community did not let it go so she doesn’t deal with what happened alone.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a MTS spokesperson released another statement regarding the incident.
"The safety of our passengers and employees is the top priority of MTS. We take incidents such as these very seriously and assist investigations in every way. Our involvement in this incident led to the quick arrest of the suspect," Rob Schupp wrote in an email.