The family of Christina Yuna Lee, who was fatally stabbed in her Chinatown apartment last year, is suing the NYPD for negligence, claiming their delayed response to the attack led to her death.
Police didn’t enter Lee’s Chrystie Street apartment until more than an hour after 911 calls from neighbors reported hearing screaming, the lawsuit says. Lee, 35, suffered more than 40 knife wounds in the Feb. 13, 2022 attack.
Assamad Nash, 25, was arrested on the scene and subsequently indicted on charges of first-degree murder and burglary, part of a spate of high-profile attacks on Asian American New Yorkers. He pleaded innocent of the charges.
Lee’s aunt Boksun Lee filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court, as first reported by the Daily Beast. The suit claims the city and police wrongfully caused her niece’s death, delayed her medical care, and were negligent in hiring, supervising and training the officers who responded to her apartment.
The NYPD and city law department declined to comment.
The lawsuit also claims the city "failed to control significant public safety conditions" at the nearby Sara D. Roosevelt Park, citing the Oct. 16, 2021 murder of Grubhub delivery worker Sala Miah, who was resting on a park bench when he was fatally stabbed.
The suit additionally targets 10 unnamed officers who responded to Lee’s apartment, saying they “unlawfully failed to prevent the assault and battery on Ms. Lee or denied and/or delayed providing medical care to Ms. Lee, leading to her pain, suffering and death.”
Hard cases to prove
Jennifer Wu, a New York-based attorney who is not involved in the case but has represented Asian victims and their families in several prominent murder and attack cases, says it’s fairly rare for such victims to sue the city or police.
A similar claim has been brought by relatives of victims killed in a gunman’s attack on a school in Uvalde, Texas, last year. Their class-action lawsuit also alleges police officers were too slow to confront the attacker, who killed 19 children and two teachers before being fatally shot himself.
“It’s because the standard to prove that there's been some malfeasance or negligence on the part of the state is very difficult to prove,” she said, before later adding that “it’s extremely difficult to basically claim that government actors have abdicated their duties.”
Wu added that it’s “extremely unusual” for police officers to “not act diligently” in the cases she’s handled.
“They've been extraordinarily aggressive in all of the cases that we have seen,” she said. “In the ones where we have actually seen a sentencing, the police were on the scene immediately.”
Surveillance video showed Lee’s alleged attacker following her into her apartment around 4:20 a.m. Neighbors called 911 minutes after the assailant entered Lee's apartment, saying they heard Lee struggling and screaming for help.
The lawsuit claims that two police officers responded to her door minutes later and heard Lee screaming for help until she "abruptly stopped." The officers also communicated with Nash through the apartment door. Nonetheless, the police Emergency Services Unit didn't force entry into her apartment until approximately 5:40 a.m., after Lee had been fatally stabbed more than 40 times in the neck and torso, the suit says.
Lee's attack took place amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and a month after Michelle Alyssa Go was pushed to her death in front of a southbound R train at the Times Square subway station.