54-year-old Patrick Thompson, the mentally ill man accused in last week's stabbing of two elderly Asian women on Market Street near Union Square, appeared in court for an arraignment Monday after refusing to do so on Friday.
Thompson remained silent during the appearance, as the Examiner reports, and his public defender Eric Fleischaker, said that Thompson pleads not guilty to multiple charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and elder abuse.
The May 4 stabbing, which happened in broad daylight at a bus stop platform at Fourth and Market streets, left two women with serious injuries. One woman, 84-year-old Choi Fong Eng, was said to be in good spirits and recovering from surgery last week — she was stabbed multiple times, including one wound that punctured her lung. The other woman, who is in her 60s, reportedly had to have the knife removed from her person at the hospital, and she is also expected to recover.
Fong Eng's daughter told KRON4 her mother had lived in San Francisco for 50 years, and she had just recently been vaccinated and felt safe going to shop in Chinatown again.
Grainy but graphic surveillance video seen below shows the moment of the attack.
GRAPHIC: Here is video showing Patrick Thompson walking up to & stabbing 2 elderly Asian women in Market Street in San Francisco. The 85-year-old collapses to the ground. Thompson, who is black but was reported to be white, has a violent criminal history. pic.twitter.com/4Y9K3oV7XN— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 7, 2021
As we learned last week, Thompson has a long history of both mental illness and violence, and he was well known to law enforcement in SF. Thompson was said to have "successfully" completed the city's Mental Health Diversion program last summer and was living on his own. However, as the District Attorney's Office explains in a statement, Thompson was arrested on a bench warrant last April, four months before completing that program, and was found in possession of a drug pipe.
Prior to that, he had been arrested for a 2017 stabbing with scissors, and was found mentally unfit for trial and sent to mental health facility in Napa. He was released from there in October 2018, and spent almost two years in Mental Health Diversion, during which time he committed no serious crimes, prosecutors say.
Still, DA Chesa Boudin, who is handling this case in court himself, said last week that "We need far more intensive tools that keep people who are mentally ill treated and supported so that they do not reoffend."
Fleischaker told reporters Monday, per the Examiner, that there is still no evidence that Thompson committed a hate crime or acted out of anti-Asian bias, but the incident nonetheless follows several months in which Asian victims — especially elderly ones — have been frequently targeted for violence in the streets of the Bay Area. The stabbing has thus made national news.
"This is not a hate crime,” Fleischaker said. “There is no evidence to support a hate crime. What we know is that Mr. Thompson was suffering from a mental health crisis and was psychiatrically hospitalized immediately after this incident.”
The judge appears to believe that Thompson should be held without bail. Fleischaker requested a hearing on Thompson's detention on Thursday, which the judge granted, as the Associated Press reports.
UPDATE: No bail for Patrick Thompson, mentally-ill man charged by @SFDAOffice @chesaboudin w/attempted murder, assault & elder abuse - but no hate crimes - in unprovoked attacks on 2 Asian women at bus stop,per @SFPD. He refused to leave @SheriffSF jail cell for court arraignment pic.twitter.com/5ONIkDCMvD— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) May 8, 2021
Boudin has been trying to get out in front of this story, as it is among about a half dozen now pending in which reoffenders — some of whom were let out of jail or were not taken into custody at all because of COVID last year — committed far more serious crimes in recent months. In one case, 45-year-old Troy McAlister was already in violation of his parole and was allegedly in a stolen vehicle and driving under the influence when he struck and killed two women in SoMa on New Year's Eve. In another case, an allegedly intoxicated man who was arrested in December for DUI in a stolen vehicle is now accused of causing an eight-car February crash near Lake Merced that took the life of a 26-year-old father.
"What happened is a devastating tragedy, and we will use the full force of our office’s resources to prosecute this case," Boudin's office said regarding the stabbing.
"We also must implement stronger responses to addressing the mental health crisis in our streets in order to keep our community safe," Boudin's statement added. "For over 40 years, we have failed to invest resources into treatment, supportive housing, and other necessary services for those who are mentally ill and their families. We are all less safe as a result of that legacy."