Then, when a bystander intervened, she called the Asian American man “a Chinese mother f—–,” according to police. But he wasn’t just another pedestrian: he was an undercover NYPD officer.
After the officer called for backup, the NYPD arrested the woman, identified by authorities as 50-year-old Sharon Williams. She was charged with harassment as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime, police told The Washington Post.
Williams could not be reached for comment; it is unclear if she has a lawyer.
The incident, which was first reported by WLNY, is the latest in a surge of attacks on Asian Americans throughout the country and comes weeks after shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area killed eight, including six Asian women. New York has seen a stark rise as well, with at least 35 anti-Asian hate crime reports already this year, the New York Times reported, as opposed to the 28 all last year.
Last month, authorities charged a 26-year-old homeless man with a hate crime for allegedly punching an Asian man. Last week, a 38-year-old man who allegedly assaulted a 65-year-old Asian American woman, pushing her down and stomping on her, received three hate-crime charges.
To address the surge, the NYPD created an 18-member Asian hate crime task force last year. Two weeks ago, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced that the department would increase its outreach to Asian communities and deploy plainclothes Asian American officers in Chinatown and other areas of the city with larger Asian American populations.
“The next person you target, whether it’s through speech, menacing activity, or anything else, walking along a sidewalk or a train platform, may be a plainclothes New York City police officer. So think twice,” Shea said at a news conference on March 25.
The undercover officer outside Good Choice for Nails Salon on Tuesday was part of that effort, police said.
The incident on Tuesday began around 5 p.m., police said, when Williams entered the salon and threatened physical violence against one Asian American woman before walking outside and continuing her verbal assault.
After she allegedly yelled a slur at the plainclothes officer, the officer called for a nearby backup team, which helped in arresting Williams and transported her to central booking.
It is unclear when Williams will next appear in court.