A man arrested for allegedly stabbing an Asian man in Chinatown in what police have called an unprovoked attack was not charged with a hate crime, contrary to what authorities said Friday.
Salman Muflihi, a 23-year-old Brooklyn man who turned himself in to police Thursday night, has been charged with second-degree attempted murder, first- and second-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, according to the criminal complaint.
A police spokesperson told NBC News Friday afternoon that the attempted homicide charge was replaced with second-degree murder as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime in addition to forgery and criminal possession charges.
When reached for clarification on Saturday, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office directed News 4 to Assistant District Attorney Adam Johnson's statement: "As we do in every case, we are continuing to investigate and may bring additional charges if warranted."
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 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.
The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he remains in critical condition. According to prosecutors, the victim had a punctured liver and major internal bleeding as a result of the attack. One of his kidneys and adrenal gland have since been removed, they state in the complaint.
Muflihi is said to have run from the scene of the alleged attack to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on Hogan Place where he turned himself in. The complaint says he told a security guard that he "stabbed a guy up the block." He pleaded not guilty to attempted murder during a court hearing Saturday.
"This case is every New Yorkers' worst nightmare... to be attacked by a complete and total stranger with a large knife for no reason at all," Johnson stated in the complaint.
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.
A crowd gathered in New York City on Saturday to denounce an uptick in attacks on people of Asian descent in the city and across the country.
Hundreds of people rallied at Foley Square on Saturday to denounce the uptick in attacks on people of Asian decent, not far from the Asian man was critically stabbed Thursday.
“It’s really been terrifying for our community,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, a New York-based advocacy group. “What is happening is not right.”
Federal, state and local politicians at the rally, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and state Attorney General Letitia James, also condemned violence against men and women of Asian descent.
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.