After a 35-year-old New York City woman was followed up six flights of stairs into her Chinatown apartment over the weekend and brutally murdered, public officials are denouncing a disturbing trend in violence against Asian-Americans.
Christina Yuna Lee, a beloved member of the Korean-American community in her neighborhood, was stabbed more than 40 times as she desperately and repeatedly pleaded for help. A neighbor who heard the victim’s screams called 911.
Authorities found Lee in a pool of blood in her bathtub around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“This is literally the nightmare situation,” New York State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou (D), who currently represents Chinatown in the Empire State’s lower legislature along with the majority of the neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan, told Law&Crime.
“Over the past days we have all come to know more about Christina Yuna Lee, who was stolen from us by a senseless act of unspeakable horrific violence,” Niou continued–focusing on facts of Lee’s life and her importance to the broader Asian community in the city she loved. “Our community has come to know Christina not as a name attached to a terrifying tragedy, but as a young woman with a passion for creating art, as a person who brought joy to the lives of her friends and family, as a source of happiness taken away by a man whose actions reflect the anger and hate in his heart.”
Prosecutors say the woman’s killer is Assamad Nash, 25, a homeless man who was recently holed up in a men’s shelter located in the adjacent Bowery neighborhood. The defendant was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder, burglary and sexually motivated burglary on Monday night in New York Criminal Court. Prosecutors reportedly allege that Nash was out on supervised release in three other cases.
25YO Assamad Nash charged in the murder of 35YO Christina Yuna Lee in her Chinatown apartment. Cops say he followed her home then stabbed her; he’s homeless and has 2 prior arrests for assault. NYPD says there’s no indication of a hate crime. pic.twitter.com/oLRk2QcCaO
— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) February 14, 2022
“Christina was attacked in her own home, a place where she should have been able to feel safe,” Niou went on. “She was stabbed over 40 times, an act of violence so stark that it is impossible to ignore the weight of hatred that drove the attacker.”
While law enforcement has not called the brutal murder a hate crime (prosecutors are investigating), Lee herself used her professional work and volunteered her spare time as an advocate against hate crimes targeting Asians, according to one of her co-workers at Splice.
A Rutgers alum who graduated in 2008 with a degree in art history, Lee worked as a creative producer for the online music platform.
In social media posts, her colleague Kenneth Takanami Herman said the two grew close after the Atlanta spa shootings that left six Asian women and two more victims dead last year.
Anti-Asian sentiment has increased in the United States over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Niou told Law&Crime that such sentiment–and the violence that often results from it–is “deeply rooted” in the United States.
“This is why we all feel scared and angry and so sad,” she told Law&Crime in an interview. “Asian-Americans feel like we have a target on our backs. People in our own country, state, city, and neighborhood hate us. It is frightening and upsetting to live every day wondering if this is the day you will be murdered simply for being Asian-American. And there are no quick fixes for such a deeply rooted, state-sanctioned hatred that has its roots in the ever present ‘perpetual foreigner’ syndrome. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese internment to laws that prevented Asian-Americans from intermarrying with whites, we have grown used to the long record of our government perpetuating hate against the AAPI community.”
Lee’s murder comes just weeks after another Asian woman, 40-year-old Michelle Alyssa Go, was murdered by being pushed in front on an oncoming train on the New York City subway in Times Square.
Niou was not the only elected official to link the latest attack on an Asian woman to a broader, disturbing trend in 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,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) said in a statement on Sunday.
“I join New Yorkers standing together in support of our AAPI friends & neighbors,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) echoed on Sunday evening via Twitter.
In a hearing on Monday night, prosecutor Dafna Yoran said NYPD officers were outside Lee’s door early Sunday morning when they heard her calls for help before, eventually, “she went quiet.”
Adams also praised the NYPD but suggested there was more than a law enforcement response needed to deal with the recent scourge of anti-Asian violence.
“While the suspect who committed this heinous act is now in custody, the conditions that created him remain,” the mayor added. “The mission of this administration is clear: We won’t let this violence go unchecked.”
Niou said that a wide-ranging response was necessary.
“This system will only change if we work together as a community and as a state to change it,” she said. “Our community will not sit silently as we are targeted and attacked and murdered in acts of staggering hate. The time for action is now, and more than ever the AAPI community needs our non-Asian friends and neighbors to stand up and demand meaningful action to end this wave of deadly violence. Christina Yuna Lee deserved nothing less.”
Nash was arrested after allegedly attempting to flee the Chrystie Street apartment down a fire escape and then barricading himself inside. He was led on a public perp walk, surrounded by cameras, outside of the NYPD’s 5th Precinct in handcuffs on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2022.
With blood stains visible on his shirt, he denied it all.
Judge Jay Weiner presided over the arraignment and ordered the defendant to return to court on Feb. 18, 2022. Nash was held without bail.
Chinatown is still in a state of shock, sadness, and outrage.
“We are friends with her friends,” Niou said. “We walked the same streets and enjoyed the same restaurants. We see in her death the threat of attack on any and all of us. Her loss is a loss for our entire community, and we mourn her as one of our own.”
[featured image: via Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images; inline image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
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