Chinatown assault suspect was arrested last week on other charges

A shocking random attack on a woman walking along a street in Chinatown was captured on video. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the assault as a hate crime.

The video shows the woman walking near 65 Bayard Street at about 6:15 p.m. Monday when a man suddenly punches her in the face, knocking her out.

New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, whose district includes Chinatown, posted the video on Twitter.

The 55-year-old woman was taken to the hospital conscious and alert.

Police arrested a suspect at the scene and brought him for a psychiatric evaluation. The NYPD identified him as Alexander Wright, 48. 

Records show he has been arrested at least 17 times. An NYPD source said Wright is accused of several assaults, including attacking a 72-year-old man, spitting in a woman's face, and punching a police officer. 

He was just released last week after being accused of throwing hot coffee on two NYPD traffic agents, scratching a man in his eye, and breaking the glass on a storefront on Madison Avenue all on the same day.

One reason Wright was out on bail is a recent change to the law. In 2020, New York passed bail reform, which got rid of cash bail for nonviolent offenders. The idea behind it was to even the playing field for poor people who are accused of committing a misdemeanor.

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New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Tuesday said lawmakers need to revise those bail reform laws.

"We cannot be chasing our tail — catch and release, catch and release," Shea told Spectrum News NY1. "What's the common denominator? People that are arrested multiple times and released. Mental illness is woven into this, potentially. We have to do better."

The PBA, the union that represents rank-and-file cops, weighed in on the Chinatown assault and bail reform.

"Whether this individual needs mental health services, jail time or both, the answer CANNOT be to put him right back on the street," @NYCPBA tweeted.

Police often say the criminal justice system is a revolving door but Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said his research proves otherwise.

"The vast majority of people who are released pretrial do not get arrested again while they are waiting for trial," he said. "About 5%, at most, of people who are arrested and waiting trial and then released who get rearrested prior to their trial."

"We've got to stop Asian hate," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference on the coronavirus pandemic. "I'm asking every New Yorker to participate in the effort to stop Asian hate and anyone who witnesses an act of hate, we need that reported."

The mayor also said more needs to be done in the criminal justice system and mental health system. 

"We've got to glue those two together better. There's no question," de Blasio said. "That's why we're making a lot more investment in dealing with mental health issues out in our streets."