On the evening of Oct. 14, 2021, Kai Liu, a Binghamton University alumnus, was attacked and robbed near Recreation Park on Binghamton’s West Side, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
Liu, a Chinese international student who graduated from BU in 2020 with a master’s degree in computer science, first shared his story on a GoFundMe page created to help raise money for his recovery expenses. According to the GoFundMe page, Liu was walking through Recreation Park between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. when he noticed he was being followed by a white sedan and two individuals. Liu wrote that he tried to escape the situation as quickly as possible, but he was assaulted by the two individuals and thrown to the ground, falling unconscious. In the GoFundMe, Liu wrote that he believed he was targeted because he is Asian.
“My head hit the ground first, [and] as a result I lost consciousness immediately,” Liu wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I don’t remember what happened to me for a period of time except that I was lying on the ground unconscious for more than an hour. I woke up after 10 p.m. and found myself lying there with a lot of blood on my head, and later learned my wallet, phone and keys were stolen.”
In a written correspondence shared with Pipe Dream, Liu shared his experience after waking up from unconsciousness.
“I was in a very critical condition at that point,” Liu wrote. “After I woke up, as my phone was stolen, I could not contact anyone. A nice lady helped me call the police and ambulance after I flagged her down. As an international student who has no family in the United States, I didn’t even have an emergency contact in the hospital system as I never thought this type of emergency would happen to me.”
After the fact, Liu was transferred to United Health Services (UHS) Wilson Medical Center due to his need for brain surgery.
“There was no one I could call at that time as I lost all my contacts along with my phone and no one could reach me by phone, [so] I was in the hospital all by myself,” Liu wrote. “I passed out quickly after I was transferred there. I have no recollection of what happened before or after the surgery. The doctor later told me that if I had received surgery just an hour later, I might have lost my life.”
According to his GoFundMe page and further writing, Liu believes that he was targeted because of his race.
“All my belongings were stolen,” Liu said. “Recently there have been many attacks targeted against Asians. If they wanted to rob me, all they needed to do was ask. I don’t have another explanation why they had to assault me and beat me brutally.”
On Nov. 18, BU’s Asian Student Union (ASU) posted a statement regarding the incident on Instagram — the first time the story was publicly shared beyond the GoFundMe. The story was also shared by the Graduate Student Employees Union via Facebook on Nov. 18.
“Our community needs to continue to work and support the victims of the crimes we encounter,” the ASU statement read. “We all need to work together to help [Liu] receive the acknowledgement and aid he deserves. Please support him and our community by donating to his GoFundMe and sending it to the people around you.”
Vanessa Wu, president of ASU and a junior majoring in nursing, said the ASU had found the story through word of mouth when a member had sent an email with a link to the GoFundMe page.
“I found out about [Liu’s] story through a student who emailed ASU’s email, where the student sent the link to the GoFundMe,” Wu wrote. “The student asked ASU for help to spread the news around to other [organizations and on] our social media platforms, since there was nothing online about the attack.”
Winnifred Jing, ASU senior adviser and a senior majoring in philosophy, said the ASU’s post generated a strong response among BU students, with many expressing anger over what had happened to Liu along with sharing and donating to his GoFundMe page.
“[Liu’s] story was met with a lot of outrage from students,” Jing wrote. “Many shared [Liu’s] GoFundMe and expressed their anger and sympathy. The rise of Asian hate crimes in recent years is still fresh on people’s minds, and even if it might be unclear whether this was a hate crime or not, seeing such a violent incident take place [in] Binghamton is very distressing. We’ve seen many people contribute to [Liu’s] GoFundMe, and it’s at least comforting to know that the community is coming together to help him out in these difficult times.”
Victoria Sheung, educational chair of Chinascope and a junior double-majoring in Chinese studies and comparative literature, said the ASU, in conjunction with Chinascope, the Student Association (SA) and the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), plans to hold a fundraiser where all proceeds would be donated to Liu.
“I think the most we can do as students is to hear his story and spread it, and alongside the spreading of this message to rally support, empathy, sympathy and calls for social justice against [Liu’s] perpetrators,” Sheung wrote. “The response has been widely supportive; ASU has decided to collaborate with all of its seven subgroups, Chinascope, the SA, MRC and other organizations to host a fundraiser event for [Liu]. The most important thing to remember is that [Liu] is asking for help, who is stranded from his home. We have the resources and reach to help him — it would only require a little bit of our time.”
Liu also wrote about his communication with the Binghamton Police Department.
“Last time when I visited the Binghamton Police Department, I was told the case is in an investigator’s hand,” Liu wrote. “The investigator told me that they had apprehended two men related to the case. I haven’t received any other updates since then.”
Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, said that the University has been in contact with Liu as well.
“We are saddened and angered to learn that a member of the Binghamton community was assaulted off campus,” Yarosh wrote. “We have and will continue to provide our support and guidance during their recovery. Various faculty, staff and offices have provided support, insurance and immigration assistance, and will remain committed to making sure that the victim is attended to and cared for. While city of Binghamton police have arrested a suspect in this case, we still ask that students remain aware of their surroundings and continually take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.”
Yarosh also mentioned the safety programs offered by Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD), such as self-defense and crime prevention. Students who are interested in scheduling a safety program can contact UPD at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-777-2393.
In the written correspondence, Liu wrote that he is on the road to recovery, and is receiving treatment for his physical as well as emotional trauma.
“I am doing better now,” Liu said. “All the staples from my surgery had been taken off; however, the healing of the scar is going to be a long process. I am still experiencing swelling, headaches and dizziness. I also have several doctor appointments this month. My energy and strength are gradually coming back. I am also seeing a therapist for PTSD. Every day I still picture what happened that night when they assaulted me, especially when I am alone.”
Liu ended his writing with a message to BU students.
“I have broken down many times whenever I thought about how I could have lost my life that night and for what, I only had $20 in cash with me,” Liu wrote. “I am a nice person and I flew all the way from the other side of the Earth to pursue my dream. I don’t deserve any of what happened to me. I am glad that I was strong enough to go through the difficult time. For students reading this story, please always be alert if you are in a dangerous situation and keep yourself safe.”
As of publication, the GoFundMe page has raised $13,750 out of its $30,000 goal. Those wishing to donate to Liu’s recovery can do so here.