A suspect in custody for an unprovoked knife attack against an Asian man in Chinatown on Thursday evening has now been charged with a hate crime, a police spokesperson tells NBC News. It's the latest in a string of attacks against the Asian community in New York City.
The 36-year-old victim was walking outside the federal courthouse near the corner of Worth Street and Baxter Street around 6:30 p.m. Thursday when the incident occurred, police sources said. The suspect approached him from behind, and stabbed the man in the back.
Police believe a large knife that was recovered at the scene was used in the attack.
Democratic District Leader Jenny Low was at the scene afterward, saying she saw blood stains on the ground.
"Outrageous isn't even the right word because we have been seeing so many more attacks on Asians," Low said.
The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was in critical condition, police said. The suspect, later identified as Salman Muflihi, was arrested after turning himself in Thursday night.
Muflihi, 23, has since been charged with attempted murder in the second degree as a hate crime, as well as assault as a hate crime. He also faces charges of criminal possession of a weapon and forgery for a fake New York driver's license. He was set to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court.
The NYPD's Hate Crimes Unit was originally notified of the incident, but it was not being investigated as a possible hate crime as of Friday morning after the suspect told police the attack was not motivated by race or ethnicity. It was later that afternoon that an NYPD spokesperson confirmed the new charges to NBC News.
Just last week, the NYPD said there were five attacks in two days on Asian Americans throughout the five boroughs. One of those included a 52-year-old woman who was thrown into newsstands in Queens. The suspect in that attack was later caught after video was shared on social media.
Police on Friday also released surveillance footage that shows an Asian woman attacked and robbed in Flushing on Tuesday. In the video, the woman is grabbed from behind by a man, then thrown to the ground before being punched repeatedly, kicked and dragged.
The suspect is seen on the video taking off running with the woman's purse, in what was at least the seventh attack on an Asian individual in recent days throughout the city. However, a source told NBC New York that there is no indication that the attack is a hate crime.
The NYPD formed an Asian Hate Crimes Task Force just last year to investigate crimes against the Asian community, which had increased amid the pandemic. In 2019, there were three cases of violence against Asians reported — that number spiked to nearly 30 in 2020.
It's not just NYC where the anti-Asian sentiment has led to violence. There have been at least 18 attacks on Asian American in San Francisco in February alone. The group "Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate" said they received more than 2,8000 first-hand accounts of hate in 2020.