Arrest made after Korean American couple punched, Olympian threatened at Orange park

Jessica De Nova Image
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Man arrested after punching Korean American couple, threatening Olympian in OC
A man accused of attacking a Korean American couple and threatening a Japanese American Olympic athlete has been arrested, according to police.

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- A 25-year-old man accused of assaulting a Korean American couple and berating a Japanese American Olympic athlete while she trained at an Orange County park was arrested Sunday, according to police.

Michael Vivona of Corona is accused of committing three hate crimes this month at an Orange park - the latest over the weekend when Orange police say he punched an elderly Asian man and woman in the face.

"The couple was on one of their evening walks as they do on a regular basis at this park when our suspect approached, unprovoked, and punched both of them in the face, causing both of them to fall to the ground," said Sgt. Phil McMullin with the Orange Police Department.

The 79-year-old man and 80-year-old woman who were attacked were treated at the scene and are expected to be OK.

RELATED: Man berates Asian American woman at busy OC park, bystanders fail to step in

In the latest in a disturbing spike in anti-Asian attacks, an Olympic athlete from Orange County was in a park training for the summer games when a man targeted her in an incident that she captured on video.

McMullin says the assault happened near the basketball courts Sunday evening at Grijalva Park.

The park is the same place where on April 1, Sakura Kokumai was the victim of an angry rant filled with racist remarks and threats of violence.

Kokumai, a Team USA Karate Olympian, kept her cool during the rant. She knew if she had to, she could defend herself.

"My worry was, what if this was somebody else?" Kokumai told Eyewitness News when she shared her story.

The suspect was able to get away the first time around, but Sunday, others in the area stepped in to help.

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The doormen watched from the lobby as 65-year-old Vilma Kari was repeatedly kicked and stomped, the video showed.

"It was a mix between a church group and people who were playing basketball. The report that I got is that they surrounded him," McMullin said. "There was no force used, but they surrounded him. Fortunately, we had a police officer who was in that immediate area across the street. He was able to get there quickly and arrest our suspect."

"I just want to say thank you to those who stepped in to help the elderly couple," Kokumai said in a statement. "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. We all must continue to be there for one another and work with each other during this time. We are all in this together."

McMullin says it was after a lineup and questioning that police were able to charge the suspect with hate crimes for both cases.

"He made statements that he has a hate toward the Asian community, and based on what he was saying we believe this attack was racially motivated and that's the only reason why he punched them," McMullin said.

Police say the suspect is currently homeless, but he provided them with a Corona address that he frequents.