New York City

9/11 Survivor Who Helped Subway Victim Says Attack Was Racially Motivated

The attack comes as New York City and many others parts of the country grapple with a rise in anti-Asian violence

NBC Universal, Inc. A vicious beating on the subway left a man bloodied and the witness that came to his rescue says he believes the attack was racially motivated. NBC New York’s Anjali Hemphill reports.

A vicious beating aboard a New York City subway left a 68-year-old man bloodied and the witness that came to his aid says the attack was racially motivated.

Police say the seemingly random attack happened aboard a northbound 1 train in the middle of the afternoon on Friday. Narayange Bodhi, who is from Sri Lanka, was commuting to his security job when the suspect punched him in the head.

George Okrepkie was sitting across from Bodhi on the train when the suspect threw the punch. Okrepkie, a 9/11 survivor, says he was in shock.

"I could not believe that somebody would attack a man of that age," he said. "Before I could even look he was standing on top of him."

Okrepkie says he was watching something roll across the floor of the train when he heard the suspect appear next to Bodhi and say, "You. You Asian MF."

NYPD
Police released surveillance images of a suspect wanted in connection to the violent beating of Bodhi.

Police have not released a motive for the attack or said if their investigators believe the attack was racially motivated.

Okerpkie tried to grab the attacker but said the man escaped out the subway doors as the train came to a stop at the Franklin Street Station in Manhattan. That's when Okrepkie took off his scarf and helped wrap it around Bodhi to stop the bleeding.

Family members tell NBC New York Bodhi suffered bruising on his face and has absolutely no memory of what happened.

The suspected attacker, 36-year-old Marc Mathieu, was later arrested on Sunday, police said. He was charged with assault and it's unclear if he'll face additional charges.

Hundreds of New Yorkers marched from Times Square to Chinatown on Saturday in support of the Atlanta shooting victims and to call for an end to violence against Asian-Americans. NBC New York's Anjali Hemphill reports.

The attack comes as New York City and many others parts of the country grapple with a rise in anti-Asian violence. So far this year, the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force has investigated at least 10 cases of hate crimes against Asians.

Hundreds, potentially thousands, of New Yorkers rallied, marched and attended vigils over the weekend to condemn the increase in attacks and honor the victims of the Atlanta-area shootings.

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People participate in a peace vigil to honor victims of attacks on Asians on March 19, 2021 in Union Square Park in New York City. On March 16th, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women, in an attack that sent terror through the Asian community. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
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A person holds a sign with the names of the people who died at a peace vigil to honor victims of attacks on Asians on March 19, 2021 in Union Square Park in New York City. On March 16th, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women, in an attack that sent terror through the Asian community. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
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Demonstrators attend a vigil to mourn the Atlanta shooting victims at Union Square in New York, the United States, March 19, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris condemned anti-Asian violence in the country on Friday, warning against silence and complicity in the aftermath of shootings this week in Atlanta, Georgia, in which eight people, including six Asian women, were killed. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images)
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New Yorkers gather in Union Square, New York, on March 19, 2021 for a vigil to mourn the lives lost in a shooting in Atlanta earlier in the week. A gunman in Atlanta targeted three Asian-owned businesses in Atlanta Georgia, eight people, six of them Asians. (Photo by Ed Ou for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Candles are lit at a peace vigil to honor victims of attacks on Asians on March 19, 2021 in Union Square Park in New York City. On March 16th, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women, in an attack that sent terror through the Asian community. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Getty Images
A person holds a sign with the names of the people who died at a peace vigil to honor victims of attacks on Asians on March 19, 2021 in Union Square Park in New York City. On March 16th, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women, in an attack that sent terror through the Asian community. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Getty Images
A person lights candles during a peace vigil to honor victims of attacks on Asians on March 19, 2021 in Union Square Park in New York City. On March 16th, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women, in an attack that sent terror through the Asian community. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)