Weeks after police say a man threatened Olympic athlete Sakura Kokumai in an Orange County park, authorities say he also attacked an elderly couple at the same location, which resulted in led to his arrest on Sunday evening.
Orange police say Michael Vivona, 25, punched a Korean-American couple in the face at Grijalva Park – the same site where Kokumai filmed a man harassing her almost three weeks ago.
A 79-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman were walking in the park on Sunday evening when Vivona approached them around 7:30 p.m. and, without saying much, threw them both to the ground with her punches, Orange Police spokesman Phil McMullin said.
“He made no statement when he attacked the elderly couple, but it was later in our interview that his statements informed us that it was a racist attack,” he said. McMullin said, adding that Vivona had made many such comments.
“He has this fixation against Asians. Basically he said he did it because they were Asian, I think because he said they were Chinese.
The man and woman, who are Americans of Korean descent, sustained minor injuries, McMullin said. Officials from the Orange Fire Department responding to the scene helped the man with an abrasion to the leg of the fall.
On April 1, Kokumai, a karate champion who was scheduled to represent the United States at the 2021 Olympics, was warming up for a race in Grijalva Park around 5 p.m. when she saw a man police now identified as Vivona. who was screaming at him and gesturing at him.
“You’re a loser. Go home, you stupid b …” he said. “I’m going to f … get up.
A Japanese American born in Hawaii, Kokumai has taken videos in which a man can be heard shouting “Chinese”. She posted the videos to her 32,000 Instagram followers. Several people passed by during the interaction, Kokumai said, but no one offered to help until the end.
“It was like the longest time the interaction happened, but nobody did much,” Kokumai said.
Passers-by at the park learned of Kokumai’s story on Sunday and recognized the man, who wore the same black shirt and orange shorts as in his videos, McMullin said.
Several people surrounded the man and called the police. An officer stationed across the street responded and arrested Vivona at the scene where the elderly couple were attacked, McMullin said.
“The community was great,” he said. “It wasn’t like they were beating him … but they recognized him.”
Police have taken Vivona into custody on suspicion of elder abuse, criminal threats and hate crimes in connection with the attack on the couple and the threats against Kokumai. The warehouse worker, who provided an address in Corona but appeared to be homeless, was enrolled in Theo Lacy jail in Orange County on bail set at $ 65,000, according to online archives . His arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.
Vivona probably lives in her car, which Kokumai photographed, McMullin said. Sunday night’s attack was the second report associated with his vehicle.
“These are the only two we’ve had,” McMullin said of the anti-Asian incidents, “but if there are more, we would definitely want them to call us.”
Orange County saw a tenfold increase in reports of hate incidents in 2020, according to Alison Edwards, CEO of Orange County Human Relations, a nonprofit that works closely with the county to track and respond to hate crimes and racism. Besides the two police attacks linked to Vivona, several other anti-Asian incidents have been recorded recently in the county, which has the third largest Asian population in the country.
A family from Ladera Ranch was repeatedly harassed with stones, verbal attacks and knocking on their door for several months. Another man has been charged with hate crime after authorities say he threw stones home of an asian mother and her 6 year old son in their car in Fullerton. Seal Beach Police are investigating a racist letter sent to a Korean American living in the Leisure World retirement village.
The wave of anti-Asian incidents prompted the county’s supervisory board in March to unanimously pass two resolutions taking action against racism and denouncing all hate crimes.
Times writer Hayley Smith contributed to this report.