In just two hours, Steven Zajonc, 29, is accused of assaulting different women, all with one thing in common: they were Asian American.
On Wednesday, police apprehended Zajonc at the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, with the help of New York Public Library employee Lt. Elmirel Cephas. He’s been with the library for 22 years. He says his colleague noticed Zajnoc on the news and recognized him as a regular at the library.
“We waited about two to three hours and he came in just like we thought he would," Cephas said. "We let him walk in. I followed him with my eyes. We saw him walk up the stairs on our mezzanine level. He went into the elevator. Once he went into the elevator I went into my office and followed him on the cameras to see where he was gonna go."
Cephas said the suspect usually went into a bathroom where he would freshen up and change into slippers. That’s when Cephas called the police.
The NYPD said that Zajonc has an address listed at a homeless shelter. Zajonc is being charged with seven counts of assault as a hate crime, seven counts of attempted assault as a hate crime and other harassment charges. The incidents come as the Asian American community in the city is experiencing a rise in violent attacks.
“I don’t like anyone disrespecting anyone else or any type of discrimination so since he was the one that was doing it, I like the fact that he was not able to do it any further,” Cephas said.
Two of the women were treated at a hospital. One was treated for injuries at the scene.
Cephas said situations like this exemplify the importance of being aware of what is going on in your surroundings.
“I just hope that they can correct the situation. Somehow people start being more alert and other people stop hating other people, period,” Cephas said.
A spokesperson for the New York Public Library said the library is proud but not surprised by the work they do every day to help the NYPD make New York City streets safer.