New York City police investigated an anti-Asian hate crime spree after a man allegedly attacked seven Asian women within a span of two hours on February 27.
The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force said the suspect randomly attacked the women in Manhattan without saying a word to them. The unprovoked attacks occurred just hours before the department released statistics demonstrating a sharp 143% increase in hate crimes this year to date, with 85 incidents occurring thus far in 2022 compared to 35 in the same time period in 2021.
Police say the assaults began at 6:30 p.m. on Madison Avenue and East 30th Street. In all seven cases, the man allegedly punched the victims in the face. The first victim was a 57-year-old woman who suffered a swelling and several cuts on her face, and was treated at a local hospital.
Around 10 minutes later, the suspect punched a 25-year-old woman in the face and the arm.
Five minutes after that, the suspect encountered a 21-year-old Asian woman near Park Avenue South and East 23rd Street. As in the other cases, the man punched her in the face before continuing on his way.
The next attack occurred near East 17th Street and Irving Place, where police say the suspect punched a 25-year-old Asian woman. The attack occurred almost 20 minutes after the first incident.
The man then elbowed a 19-year-old woman in the face near Union Square East and East 17th Street.
Around 7:25 p.m., about a mile away from the first attacks, the suspect once again elbowed a young woman in the mouth.
The last attack occurred at 8:37 p.m. when he shoved a woman, 20, to the ground.
Police later tracked the man from a tip to the New York Public Library in midtown on March 2. The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Steven Zajonc, barricaded himself in the library bathroom prior to the arrest.
Zajonc, a homeless man with a criminal history, was charged with seven accounts of assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and harassment.
As the NYPD statistics show, these incidents were far from isolated. The city recently saw two brutal killings of Asian American women in less than a month: on January 15, Michelle Go was pushed in front of an oncoming train at a subway station, and then on February 13, Christina Yuna Lee was stabbed 40 times in her apartment by a man who had followed her into her building. And attacks on Asian Americans have been on the rise nationwide, increasing a whopping 339% in 2021 after many cities had already seen record numbers in 2020.