A man is facing hate crime charges after allegedly attacking seven Asian women in New York City over three hours. Steven Zajonc, 28, who was arrested last month, is charged with six felony counts of third-degree assault as a hate crime and seven counts of second-degree aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor hate crime, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a Monday statement, per NBC News. Zajonc's alleged attacks came on the East Side of Manhattan during the evening of Feb. 27. "As alleged, within just three hours, Steven Zajonc selectively ambushed seven Asian women in separate assaults, some of which he struck from behind—for no other reason than their perceived race," Bragg said.
The victims ranged in age from 19 to 57, police say. The 28-year-old Zajonc allegedly first punched a 57-year-old woman in the face around 6:30pm. Ten minutes later, he allegedly punched a 25-year-old woman in the face, per the Washington Post. He allegedly continued to target Asian women in unprovoked attacks just minutes apart. Other victims were punched, elbowed, or pushed to the ground, and one was knocked unconscious and hospitalized for a concussion, per NBC and CNN. Zajonc—now held on Rikers Island on a $50,000 bond, per the Post—was arrested March 2 at a public library in midtown after security employees noticed his resemblance to security footage of the suspect.
Zajonc, who's reportedly homeless, barricaded himself inside the building before officers detained him, per NBC New York. His mother later told WFLA that her son has mental health issues and was committed multiple times in Florida before returning to his native New York in 2020. "These attacks on seven New York women, each fueled by anti-Asian hate, are yet another sobering reminder of the demonstrable fears [Asian American and Pacific Islander] communities, particularly AAPI women, in our city continue to face," Bragg said in his statement, noting his office has 27 open cases related to anti-Asian hate crimes. The NYPD reported a 357% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes throughout 2021, per the Post. (Read more hate crime stories.)