NYC doormen fired for failing to intervene in attack on Filipino American woman

Two New York City apartment building workers have been fired for failing to help a Filipino American woman as she was being violently attacked on the sidewalk outside, the building’s management company said Tuesday.

Surveillance video of the March 29 attack near Times Square showed that the doormen didn’t step outside and approach the woman until more than a minute after the violence stopped and the assailant walked away.

The men watched from the lobby as 65-year-old Vilma Kari was repeatedly kicked and stomped, the video showed. One of them closed the building’s door as Kari lay on the ground seconds after the attack ended.

The building’s management company, the Brodsky Organization, initially suspended the doormen pending an investigation. That investigation was completed on Tuesday and the two doormen were fired, the company said.

“While the full lobby video shows that once the assailant had departed, the doormen emerged to assist the victim and flag down an NYPD vehicle, it is clear that required emergency and safety protocols were not followed,” the company said in a statement.

The Brodsky Organization also pledged to give all building services employees training on emergency response protocols, anti-bias awareness and bystander intervention.

Workers challenging firing: union

The doormen’s union, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said the workers are challenging their terminations under a grievance process outlined in their collective bargaining agreement. The process can take months, the union said. 

“We believe we must root out systemic racism in all its forms,” 32BJ SEIU president Kyle Bragg said in a statement. “We believe that all union workers, especially workers of colour who are often the subject of unfair treatment on the job, have a right to a fair process as outlined in their contract.”

People take part in a Stop Asian Hate rally at Times Square in New York City on April 4 following the attack, which was among the latest in a spike in violence against Asian people in North America. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The union previously said that the doormen waited until the attacker walked away to check on Kari and flag down a nearby patrol car because they thought he had a knife.

The surveillance video shows a police car pulling up about a minute after the doormen went outside. The workers and officers are seen with her on the sidewalk for several more minutes before the video cuts off.

Brandon Elliot, a 38-year-old parolee convicted of killing his mother nearly two decades ago, was charged with assault and attempted assault as hate crimes.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on a felony indictment on April 21. His lawyers have urged the public to “reserve judgment until all the facts are presented in court.”

Attack widely condemned

Kari, who emigrated from the Philippines several decades ago, was attacked outside a luxury apartment building while walking to church. She suffered serious injuries including a fractured pelvis and spent a day in the hospital.

Kari’s daughter, Elizabeth Kari, posted Sunday on a fundraising website she set up to help pay for her mother’s care that Kari “has been resting these past few days and wants to send her best as your energy, prayers, and thoughts have reached her and our family.”

The attack, among the latest in a spike in violence against Asian people in North America and linked in part to misplaced blame for the coronavirus pandemic, drew widespread condemnation and raised alarms about what appeared to be the failure of bystanders to help. Police said no one called 911 and that patrol officers driving by came upon Kari after she had been assaulted.

Elizabeth Kari said that a person across the street who was not seen on surveillance video helped by screaming to distract the attacker.

A widely seen snippet of the surveillance video ended as the attacker was walking away from Kari. Elizabeth Kari said that the attacker was crossing the street and heading toward the bystander who screamed at him. That person has remained anonymous, she said.

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