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Man, 25, is arrested for racial attacks on Olympian and ‘assaulting elderly Korean American couple’

A man accused of assaulting a Korean American couple and berating a Japanese American athlete has been arrested.

Michael Vivona, 25 of Corona, California faces charges of making criminal threats, as well as a hate crime charge of elder abuse.

The first incident took place April 1. Vivona is accused of having a run-in with Japanese American Olympian Sakura Kokumai at Grijalva Park in Orange, California.

The Orange Police Department announced Michael Vivona’s arrest on Twitter

Kokumai managed to capture video of a man screaming at her and posted in to Instagram.

‘Yes what happened was horrible, but I don’t know which was worse, a stranger yelling and threatening to hurt me for no reason or people around me who witnessed everything and not doing a thing,’ Kokumai posted on April 2.

In a series of videos, Kokumai, who maintains throughout the footage that she is doing nothing wrong, is targeted with a barrage of threats. 

‘Don’t be looking at me behind my back,’ the man says. 

He later adds, ‘I’m not f*****g scared of you … you’re a loser. Go home, stupid b***h.’

He also seems to scream ‘Chinese’ at Kokumai, who was born in Hawaii. 

‘This could have happened to anyone, if it wasn’t me, someone could’ve gotten hurt,’ Kokumai wrote on Instagram.

Sakura Kokumai captured her verbal attack on Instagram

She even caught a glimpse of Michael Vivona, although he wasn't identified then

Sakura Kokumai captured her verbal attack on Instagram, even getting a look at the attacker

Vivona was allegedly wearing similar clothes on Sunday, which helped identify him

Kokumai thanked the people who helped the attacked elderly couple this weekend

Vivona was allegedly wearing similar clothes on Sunday, which helped identify him

Kokumai, 28, who competes in karate, won a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games and previously qualified to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics, currently scheduled to be held in Tokyo in three months.

On April 18, Vivona returned to the park where he encountered a Korean American couple taking a walk around 7:30pm., police said.

Vivona is accused of punching a man, who is 79, and a woman, who is 80 years old, hitting both of them in the face.

The Los Angeles Times reported the  man, who hasn’t been identified, was treated for an abrasion to his leg after falling to the ground from the punch.

The woman also suffered minor injuries. 

People at the park Sunday recognized the suspect from Kokumai’s videos, as he was wearing the same black shirt and orange shorts, according to police.

Passersby began to surround the man while waiting for police, leading to Vivona’s arrest.

Kokumai acknowledged the attack on the elderly couple in a statement on Monday night. 

‘I just want to say thank you to those who stepped in to help the elderly couple,’ Kokumai said in a statement on Monday.

‘I was nervous to share my story at the beginning, but this was a clear reminder that listening and having love for the community can make a huge difference.’ 

Kokumai is an Olympic-level athlete who won a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games

Kokumai is an Olympic-level athlete who won a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games

Kokumai is set to represent the United States in the Summer Olympics in Toyko this year

Kokumai is set to represent the United States in the Summer Olympics in Toyko this year

Upon his arrest, Vivona confessed to the police, according to CBS LA. He is being held $65,000 bail and has a court appearance on Wednesday.

Vivona is a warehouse worker who could be living out of his car, which was at both incidents.

‘We believe that this attack was racially motivated based on our investigation and our interview that happened afterwards,’ said Orange Police Department Sgt. Phil McMullin.

‘He specifically said that he had a hate towards the Asian community.’ 

 There has been a disturbing increase in attacks against the Asian American community, potentially linked to the theorized origin of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.

The New York Times found more than 110 incidents of race-based hate towards the Asian-American community since March 2020.

The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would strengthen reviews of hate crimes related to the pandemic, is set to be voted upon by the Senate as early as this week.


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