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San Diego Police investigate Asian hate crime after elderly Laotian man was attacked

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 21:33:55-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego Police investigators are asking for the public's help finding the man responsible for sending an elderly Laotian man to the hospital with serious injuries. The department is now officially calling this incident an Asian hate crime.

Every morning, 81-year-old Mark Sanouvong takes a stroll in his Lincoln Park neighborhood. But on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, he stopped.

"An angry man came up to him and asked him if he was Chinese or Vietnamese," the victim's family friend, Kennedy Phounsiri, said.

He said Sanouvong answered, "I'm Lao, leave me alone." But the man didn't. San Diego Police detectives said the man kept rambling and followed him along the sidewalk of Porter North Elementary.

"Next thing you know, he gets beat up," Phounsiri said.

Multiple kicks to the face and stomach left him with serious injuries. The attack only stopped when a preschool teacher from neighboring Mt. Erie Baptist School came out screaming. The city bus surveillance camera captured Sanouvong slumped on the bus bench as the teacher called for help.

"She made it very obvious that she was calling the police to get this guy some help, and then the man casually walked away," San Diego Police Captain, Manny Del Toro said.

Two and a half weeks later, San Diego Police still has no arrest for what they are now calling an Asian hate crime. Meanwhile, Phounsiri said Sanouvong is recovering slowly.

"He pretty much almost lost vision," Phounsiri said. "[His eye] was closed shut. There was a lot of blood caught in there, and right now, his ribs are the most painful."

Asian Pacific-Islander advocate JoAnn Fields said she is mobilizing an initiative to get all local law enforcement to join a Rapid Response Network, so incidents like this get notified and solved quickly.

"These incidents don't have boundaries," Fields said. "So if it's in El Cajon, Chula Vista, or National City, we need to have a protocol, so we're not just reacting as it happens, but we actually have a plan."

In the meantime, loved ones are hoping Sanouvong keeps his vision.

"We all pray for his recovery," Phounsiri said.

The suspect is described as a 40-year-old white man with brown hair, about six feet tall, clean-cut, wearing a light-colored jacket, and carrying a large bag.

If you remember anything about this incident, you are asked to contact Lieutenant Al Ambito at 619-527-3511 or You can also remain anonymous by sending a tip to San Diego Crime Stoppers.