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SFPD reopens case of 63-year-old Asian woman pushed to death on sidewalk in 2023

A police car with "S.F.P.D." badge, viewed through a blurred fence.
Yangfan Wu, 63, died last July after being pushed on a sidewalk in the Bayview. Police ruled the incident an accident. Now, they have reopened the case. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The San Francisco Police Department has decided to reopen a 2023 case involving the death of a Chinese immigrant as activists demand more transparency into why the incident was ruled an accident. 

Yanfang Wu, a 63-year-old woman, was pushed on a sidewalk in the Bayview neighborhood last July and later died from her injuries. The incident was later ruled an accident by SFPD, so no arrests were made and no charges were filed.

However, the person who is said to have pushed Wu, Thea Hopkins, was arrested last week for allegedly violently assaulting a 71-year-old Chinese woman. That triggered an outcry from a group of Asian American activists, who demanded that law enforcement reexamine the July 2023 case and release the video footage of the pushing incident.

“It’s alarming,” Charles Jung, an attorney and organizer of the Asian Justice Movement, told The Standard. “Release that video and let people judge with their own eyes.”

Jung said that he and other activists met with SFPD leadership last July for the Wu case, and were told that the department had the video and would conduct a thorough investigation. In August, SFPD announced the incident that killed Wu was an accident.

SFPD Communications Director Evan Sernoffsky said Monday that the department has reopened the July case based on new evidence but will not release the video now because it may jeopardize the investigation.

Hopkins, 43, was arrested on March 4 and remains in jail as she’s accused of punching and throwing the elderly Asian woman to the ground in the 1000 block of Gilman Avenue between Griffith Street and Bill Walsh Way. The next court hearing is scheduled for March 20.

Kathleen Natividad, a deputy public defender representing Hopkins, denied that the 2023 incident was criminal, emphasizing the law enforcement has carefully reviewed the evidence and officially deemed it to be an accident.

"While we understand that the circumstances of these recent allegations are upsetting, it is disheartening to hear false assumptions being made against Ms. Hopkins, who is also a vulnerable person in the community,” she said.

In a San Francisco Chronicle article from December 2022, Hopkins was interviewed as a homeless woman who struggled with drug addiction.

Jung and the group are also planning a rally on Saturday to honor the victims of the Atlanta spa shooting in 2021 and will also urge more transparency from SFPD in the pushing case.

Wu’s husband, Rongan Liang, decided to move back to China after his wife’s death. A Community Youth Center staffer has been helping Liang since the incident and said Liang is currently still in China. The center will also inform him of the new developments in the case.