Zhiwen Yan, a 45-year-old delivery man, was shot and killed while he was waiting for a red light to turn green at an intersection in Forest Hills on Saturday, April 30. According to the police, Yan was shot in the chest by a man on foot. After the man shot Yan, he went back into his car and drove away. Yan was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens where he was pronounced dead. The motive of the shooting is still unknown at the time of reporting.
Reports have given different motives for the shooting with some claiming it was a road rage incident while others claim the suspect was a customer of the Great Wall, the restaurant Yan worked for. It is alleged that the person of interest held a grudge against the restaurant over a disagreement over duck sauce. He repeatedly harassed the employees of the restaurant, using racial slurs against them, slashing the tires of the restaurant owner’s vehicle twice, and pointing a firearm at him. Yan was present at the time of this incident and reportedly one of the people who grabbed him, preventing him from shooting when the disgruntled customer pointed the firearm at the owner. According to reports, the aforementioned customer is a 50-year-old male who drives a Lexus SUV, which is similar to the vehicle seen driving from the scene of the shooting.
Yan, a Chinese immigrant, arrived in the United States more than 20 years ago. He worked as a deliveryman for the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant in Queens. He was known for being friendly with customers. “He was just a joyful, kind person,” said Frances Kweller. Kweller runs a tutoring program in Forest Hills and her company ordered food from the Great Wall almost daily. Kweller added that the loss of Yan was traumatic and tragic.
Yan is survived by his wife Kunying Zhao and three children. His wife was said to be “frozen in despair” following the death of her husband. According to reports, Yan worked seven days a week to support his family. On days when the restaurant was slow, he would assist his wife who works in a laundromat.
Yan’s death has raised concerns in local Asian communities. Attacks against Asians in New York City have become commonplace since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. According to Councilwoman Julie Won, who is Korean-American, with many of the delivery workers in the area being of Asian descent, there is cause for concern after Yan’s death.
According to police statistics for the 112th Precinct, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park, there had not been a murder in the area since 2016. Yan’s murder was the second in less than three months after the death of Orsolya Gaal, who was allegedly killed by a handyman said to be her on-and-off boyfriend. There has been a stark increase in crime, specifically violent offenses such as shootings, robberies, and thefts causing the crime rate to go up by 50% compared to the same period last year.