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Mourners gathered Monday, Feb. 14 to remember Christina Yuna Lee. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Christina Yuna Lee’s murder marks second AAPI killing in NYC in a month

AAPI hate crimes have hit all-time highs across the U.S. over the past two years.

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Not even a month after Michelle Go was pushed to her death in front of an oncoming train, another Asian-American woman in New York City has been targeted and murdered, and it has the community frustrated, scared, and begging for change. 

Around 4:30 a.m on Sunday morning, Feb. 13, 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee, a Korean-American creative producer, became the victim of a break-in and subsequent fatal stabbing. 

The building’s owner told The New York Post that Lee had come from New Jersey and was living in the sixth-floor apartment for less than a year. 

A graduate of Rutgers University, Lee worked as a senior creative producer at the digital music platform Splice. 

“Over the weekend our beloved Christina Lee was senselessly murdered in her home. Always dedicated to making beautiful and inclusive artwork, Christina is irreplaceable,” the company shared in a tribute shared on Twitter. 

Lee was heading home when she was followed inside her Chrystie Street apartment building’s front door, which was displayed in surveillance footage. 

Neighbors recalled hearing her screaming for help before she was found in her bathtub, bleeding from multiple wounds. Cops believe the knife came from her own kitchen. 

The suspect — named by sources as homeless “career criminal” Assamad Nash, age 25 — attempted to flee on a fire escape before heading back inside and being discovered hiding under a bed. 

Police did not comment on whether they are going to consider the attack a hate crime.

Hours later, Asian-American community leaders rallied near the scene, demanding action from the city. 

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who represents the district, described the attack as a “worst case scenario.” 

“She was still screaming and fighting for her life, and they weren’t able to get to her for almost an hour and a half,” Niou said.

Niou also said she was emotionally exhausted from the series of events she and her fellow Asian-American community leaders have had to attend in recent weeks, including one just days before, about a Korean diplomat who was assaulted

“This has happened so many times, and we have attended too many vigils,” she said.

On Monday morning, Feb. 14, about 250 demonstrators gathered to mourn Lee and protest anti-Asian hate crimes. 

Yi Andy Chen, director of Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and one of the protest organizers, told BuzzFeed News that he has already “lost count” of how many similar events he has attended in the last two years. 

Chen’s own mother was a victim of a hate crime in February 2020, when she went out to buy groceries and someone pushed her onto the sidewalk, causing an injury that required 12 stitches. 

According to the New York Police Department, attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) rose by 361% between 2020 and 2021. 

Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation told BuzzFeed News that there appears to be a rush not to label these incidents as hate crimes, even before investigations are finished. 

“This shapes the media narrative and affects how these crimes are reported, talked about, how much attention is paid to our vulnerable communities, and discourages people from reporting crimes when they are not being taken seriously,” Yoo said. 

The foundation is urging the city to invest $30 million in emergency mental health support services to address the fact that most anti-Asian attackers have mental health issues, and to help the AAPI community cope with the trauma of witnessing attack after attack. 

Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said that whether or not this incident was motivated by race, it increases anxiety for Asian women who see themselves when stories like this come out. 

“To the Asian women who flatten our backs against subway ads so we can’t be pushed onto the tracks. Who look over our shoulders and keep one headphone off our ear, one hand on the pepper spray in our pockets. You deserve better. You deserve to feel safe,” wrote author Stephanie Foo on Twitter. 

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