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NYPD arrests suspect in 7 attacks against Asian women on same day

The suspect in the string of attacks in Manhattan on Sunday punched, shoved or elbowed his victims without provocation in a period of two hours.
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The suspect accused in a string of attacks on seven Asian women over a two-hour period on Sunday in Manhattan has been arrested and charged with hate crimes, police said.

Steven Zajonc, 28, was arrested Wednesday, charged with seven counts each of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and harassment, the New York Police Department said.

He was taken into custody after barricading himself in the New York Public Library, NBC New York reported.

In an email to NBC News, a New York Public Library spokesperson said NYPL guard Roshanta Williams told guard Lt. Elmirel Cephas that a library regular appeared to be the suspect in the string of attacks against Asian women.

“They looked at news video, and strongly suspected that this was the case,” the spokesperson said. When the suspect walked into the library later, Cephas recognized him, called 911 and began monitoring his behavior. The guards followed him into a bathroom, where he locked himself into a stall until police arrived and detained him.

NBC News New York reported that he was taken to the 7th precinct, headquarters of NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, which is investigating the string of assaults.

Zajonc punched or hurt his victims, who ranged in age from 19 to 57, without provocation, the New York Police Department said.

The first attack unfolded Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in Midtown when the suspect approached a woman, 57, and punched her in the face then ran off, according to police.

“There was no prior interaction and no statements were made,” the NYPD said. 

The victim suffered swelling to the left side of her face and a cut lip and was hospitalized by private means, according to authorities.

Ten minutes later, the suspect punched a 25-year-old Asian woman in the face and the back of the arm in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue and East 30th Street, police said. She didn’t require any medical attention on scene. 

He then fled on foot, punching a 21-year-old woman in the face in the area of Park Avenue South and East 23rd Street five minutes later.

At 6:50 p.m., the suspect approached a 25-year-old Asian woman and punched her in the face near Irving Place and East 17th Street. She suffered a laceration and swelling to the upper lip but didn’t require any medical attention, police said.

About 15 minutes later, he elbowed a 19-year-old girl in the face near Union Square East and East 17th Street, according to police. She also didn’t require any medical attention. 

He then elbowed a 25-year-old woman in the mouth at 7:25 p.m. near East Houston and Mott streets. Emergency medical services responded to the scene and treated her for swelling and bleeding to the lower lip, the NYPD said.

The spate of attacks allegedly ended at 8:37 p.m. near Broadway and East 8th Street when the suspect allegedly shoved a 20-year-old woman to the ground. She suffered minor injuries to her hands and didn’t require any medical attention, police said.

Police shared video of the suspect, saying he was last seen wearing a a multicolored backpack, a light blue T-shirt and dark-colored pants and shoes. 

Attacks against the Asian American community spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NYPD reported in December that incidents targeting Asians rose by 361 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.

As of Feb. 23, four days before Sunday's string of attacks, there had been seven anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city, the NYPD said.