NEW YORK — A 28-year-old homeless man has been charged with hate crimes after a string of unprovoked attacks on women of Asian descent in New York City, police said.
Steven Zajonc was arrested Wednesday in connection with assaults on seven women in different Manhattan neighborhoods over a two-hour period on Sunday.
The victims were all women of Asian descent ranging in age from 19 to 57, police said. Most were punched in the face; one was shoved to the ground. Two were treated at hospitals.
Zajonc was arrested on seven counts each of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and harassment. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charges.
Zajonc was apprehended at a midtown Manhattan library after two library guards recognized him from surveillance videos of the crime scenes and alerted police, officials with the New York Public Library said.
According to an NYPL news release, Roshanta Williams, a guard at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation library branch, alerted senior guard Elmirel Cephas on Wednesday that a regular patron of the library looked like the suspect police were seeking.
Cephas later spotted Zajonc walking into the library and called 911, the library officials said. Zajonc locked himself in a single-stall bathroom, and the guards monitored the area until police arrived, the officials said.
Library officials said Zajonc, who used a Manhattan drop-in center as his address, had often locked himself in the bathroom in the past.
“Our guards have the extremely challenging job, especially under recent circumstances, of keeping our branches safe and welcoming for all New Yorkers,” Iris Weinshall, the NYPL’s chief operating officer, said. “They do this extremely well every day, but today went above and beyond to help the NYPD keep our streets safer.”
The attacks Sunday were part of an alarming pattern of violence directed at people of Asian descent in New York, including the killings of Christina Yuna Lee, who was stabbed to death in her apartment last month, and Michelle Alyssa Go, who was shoved in front of a subway train in Times Square in January. Neither Lee’s nor Go’s killing has been ruled a hate crime at this time.