A police detective said in a criminal complaint that Powell admitted to attacking an Asian man at the approximate time and location of the attack on Ma, stating he did so because the man had robbed him the day before.
Chan, however, said that the men had never met before.
Ma and his wife – who Chan said is “devastated” by what happened to her husband – immigrated to the United States in October 2018 from China, where Ma was a dim sum chef.
After arriving in the US, Ma obtained work as a general kitchen worker at a Chinese restaurant, making pastries and performing other kitchen tasks.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ma lost his job when the restaurant closed during lockdown. He had not worked long enough to qualify for unemployment benefits, Chan said.
That prompted Ma and his wife, who also lost her job as a home healthcare attendant, to collect returnable bottles and cans to generate extra money for food, Chan said.
“They were recent immigrants,” he said. “They really didn’t have any savings.”
The couple have two adult children, a son and daughter, who still live in China. Prior to the pandemic, Chan said that the couple lost their Chinatown apartment in December 2019 to a fire and had to move in with relatives.