The Sunday Read: ‘Why Was Vicha Ratanapakdee Killed?’

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Throughout 2020, multiple strangers came at Monthanus Ratanapakdee seemingly out of nowhere. An old man yelled at her in Golden Gate Park — something about a virus and going back to her country. When she discussed these incidents, her father would ask, “Is it really that bad?”

Her father, Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was a lifelong Buddhist, the kind of person who embraced the world with open arms. During the coronavirus pandemic, he usually left the house before 8 a.m. and made it back before his grandsons started their Zoom classes.

This year, on the morning of Jan. 28, he headed out. A surveillance video captured what happened next. A tall figure suddenly darts across a street and slams into a much smaller one; the smaller figure crumples onto the pavement and doesn’t get back up.

After her father’s passing, Monthanus asked her neighbors if they would share their security camera footage. Only one agreed. As she replayed the footage again and again, Monthanus kept coming back to the same conclusion. “He didn’t take anything from my father, not even the tablet,” she said. “I got everything back — the house key, even the quarter.” Her husband, Eric, fixated on the footage, too. “That’s when I was like: ‘This is more than some kind of accident or robbery or assault. This is a hate crime.’”

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Perez, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison and Kate Winslett. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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