Charges are pending against a man accused of stabbing a 35-year-old woman to death in Chinatown Sunday morning.
Police made the gruesome discovery of Christina Yuna Lee’s body after engaging in a brief standoff with the suspect. Citing preliminary information, sources familiar with the case said, it’s believed the suspect had previously followed the victim into her Chrystie Street apartment. It’s not clear, however, whether she knew her attacker.
A motive for the stabbing is also unknown at this time, law enforcement sources said — but it prompted outrage from Mayor Eric Adams and others across the city.
“I and New Yorkers across the city mourn for the innocent woman murdered in her home last night in Chinatown and stand with our Asian brothers and sisters today,” Adams said in a Sunday statement. “The NYPD is investigating this horrific incident, and I thank them for apprehending the suspect. While the suspect who committed this heinous act is now in custody, the conditions that created him remain. The mission of this administration is clear: We won’t let this violence go unchecked.”
Officers from the 5th Precinct responded to the apartment building at 111 Chrystie St. at about 4:35 a.m. on Feb. 13 after receiving a 911 call regarding a dispute.
Police said the suspect refused to let the officers inside the apartment, leading to a brief standoff.
Members of the NYPD Emergency Services Unit were called in, and they were able to finally gain access into the residence.
Once inside the apartment, authorities said, the officers found Lee, 35, in the bathroom, with stab wounds about her body. EMS units pronounced her dead at the scene.
Local residents were shocked by the crime.
“This is the worst thing I’ve seen happen in a while around here,” said Sean O’Hara, a neighbor who’s lived in the Chinatown area for about a year with his girlfriend. He shared that the area does not feel very safe, so whenever his girlfriend works a late shift he tries to pick her up and walk her home.
“This park is a playground for people on crack, it’s really sad. They’re still human beings,” O’Hara said. “I love the Bowery, it’s a great place. It just needs attention and love.”
Adding to the trauma
Sunday’s homicide delivered another shock to the areas of Lower East Side and Chinatown, both of which have heavy Asian populations and endured a dramatic uptick in hate crimes in recent months.
Though the motive for the homicide remains unknown and under investigation, some — like Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou – feared the worst.
“Asian Americans have faced the single highest spike in hate crimes of any ethnic group in our state. And our city leads the nation in anti Asian violence. We’ve seen anti semitic violence on the rise in the city. We’ve seen the file is actually escalate in brutal attacks,” Niou said.
In an emotional, tearful address at a press conference about the homicide Sunday afternoon, Niou called on lawmakers to provide funding toward greater mental health programs, believing that will help address the mental health crisis that’s contributing to the uptick in violence against Asian New Yorkers and others.
“These are solvable problems. But for many in the Asian community, it can feel like our government is not interested in solving these problems. Or maybe it does not see the problem at all,” Niou said. “I stand here with my colleagues and the community advocates today, because it is time for our city and our state to address these issues. It is time to acknowledge that we exist and that the mental health crisis that is leading to an uptick in violent assaults, and formerly a problem we support our community for a change.”
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, urged the city to make a $30 million emergency commitment toward immediate mental health resources for the community.
“Once again, our community finds itself contending with another senseless tragedy. We are angry and we deserve to be angry and I want to but I want to tell my community. The time for actions will come. But we need to let NYPD finish their investigations because we need to understand the facts. This crisis has been going on for the last two years, two years,” said Yoo.
Senator John Liu also joined the solemn gathering to discuss the state of safety within Chinatown.
“It’s been two long years, and especially with the last couple of months with Omicron we’ve seen yet another spike in anti-Asian hate. Now, maybe this is a hate crime. Maybe this is not a hate crime. But it’s yet another Asian woman. Another Asian American was brutally attacked and killed in her own home. Think about that. So, when the Asian American community is upset, and frustrated and downright angry, you know where it’s coming from. People do not feel safe, and part of this is that government at all levels need to pay more attention,” Queens state Senator John Liu said, adding that Chrystie Street is well known for its dangers, so much so that people are cautious, looking over their shoulders when walking through that area.
“And yet this attack occurs, and the city continues to seemingly talk about long term solutions without providing the relief that the community needs and demands right now,” Liu said.