A man in Queens, New York City, on Sunday went on a racist tirade against an Asian woman who attempted to socially distance himself from him in compliance with the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Police said the suspect, who was not wearing a mask, also smashed her cell phone during a scuffle.

The incident happened at around 11:45 a.m. (EST). The victim had a face mask on while she was walking down the Wetherole St. and 66th Ave. in Rego Park with her partner after grocery shopping. She noticed that the attacker, who was coming from the other side, had his face uncovered, police said.

The victim told New York Daily News on condition of anonymity that they stepped aside to let the man pass as it was a narrow walkway. "I think he took offense at that. He started screaming racist insults,” she said.

“Are you serious?" the man yelled. “You stupid b---h c--t. You’re the ones that brought the virus here!.” The victim, who was standing 10 feet away from the suspect, turned around and confronted him. The suspect then went near them and pulled items from their cart, and threw them onto the street.

"I was upset because I don’t want him to get away with this. I follow him and try to take a picture of him. He saw me taking a picture, he lunged at me again, pushed me, and tried to grab the phone from my hand,” the victim said. He then snatched it from her hand and smashed repeatedly into the sidewalk, breaking it.

The police got the images of the suspect, who ran west on Wetherole Street, from a nearby security camera and released them on Monday, asking anyone with information about the attack to reach out to them.

Police described the suspect as a bearded man with a moustache and salt-and-pepper hair. He was wearing a white hooded sweater, white sweatpants, and white sneakers, and had a white baseball cap on.

"We’ve seen it on the news, but we never thought it would happen to us,” the victim said, adding that it was rather ironic the suspect mistook her for Chinese whereas she is a Malaysian.

Asian-Americans in Los Angeles
Asian-Americans in Los Angeles Reuters