Police said on Wednesday that the man who allegedly set a Muslim woman's blouse on fire over the weekend may have targeted three other women on the same night. The man appears to have approached all of the women with a handheld lighter and attempt to spark their clothing.
According to the latest information, the three additional female victims were not wearing hijab, unlike the first reported victim. The initial attack announced by the NYPD, against Scotland tourist 35-year-old Nemariq Alhinai, prompted a Hate Crimes Task Force investigation. "Hate Crimes is still looking into it, but it looks like it may not be bias-related," an NYPD spokeswoman said.
A group of five people—two women and three men, including the suspect—allegedly approached a woman wearing shorts and long shirt outside of the Tiffany & Co. store at 727 Fifth Avenue around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday. Cops said the suspect approached the victim, who was window-shopping, from behind and appeared to "ignite a lighter next to her leg." The startled woman was not injured, but quickly headed north towards East 57th Street. The suspect headed south. About fifteen minutes later, 35-year-old Nemariq Alhinai realized that her blouse had been set on fire. She was standing in front of the nearby Valentino store at 693 Fifth Avenue.
Then, around 10:00 p.m., two women on the D/F train platform at Bryant Park said they were approached by a man who "placed" a flame "near their respective arms." The man, approximately 6'0" and wearing a white t-shirt, fit the description of the attacker in the other two incidents. Police said he was holding a lighter, and was with a group of people.
"You shouldn't burn people," one of the women said, according to the police report.
"I don't smoke, you can smell my breath," the man responded. He and his companions apparently fled when the women got on an arriving F train.
Police released additional surveillance footage of the suspect. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information in regards to the above incidents is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.