CHINATOWN — The man suspected of assaulting four Asian women threatened to rape his latest victim in a message written in Cantonese that he showed her on his cellphone, according to witnesses and sources.
The most recent attack occurred on Monday afternoon about 4 p.m. at Paragon II Cleaners on Mulberry Street where the victim worked, police and witnesses said.
The man, who does not appear to be Asian, held up his cellphone with the obscene and threatening message so the woman could read it through the business' plate-glass window.
"It was written in perfect Chinese," said a co-worker who was there at the time of the attack. She spoke through another worker who spoke English, but neither of them would give their names.
The victim went to the door and asked the man to leave, which he did, police and the witness said. But 20 minutes later he returned. The victim and her attacker had a discussion that the co-worker did not understand because it was in English, then she shooed him out of the shop, she said.
"I didn't get up until I heard the scream," the witness said who had been working at her sewing machine facing the store window during the whole encounter.
When she heard her coworker scream, the woman went to the door and found the victim cowering in the doorway with her hand over her mouth.
The man has attacked three other women the same way, striking them with a plastic bag with a heavy object in it, police said.
The day after the attack, neighbors and workers in the area were on high alert and extended their sympathies to workers at Paragon.
Pictures hung in shop windows showing the suspect's face, handwritten signs voiced support for the woman and a neighbor delivered baked goods to the dry cleaners.
"I was here by myself when it happened. I didn't see or hear anything but I wish I had," said Jennifer Sharkey, 36, owner of a coffee shop right next to the dry cleaners. "It could have just as easily been me."
Sharkey said she planned to rearrange her work schedule in the coming days so that no worker would be alone in the shop. The message on the chalkboard, scrawled in pink and blue letters, reads: "Violence against women is everyone's problem. Stay safe!"
Other women who work in the neighborhood voiced concern about having to return home alone after their shifts.
"I work until 9:30,” said Siew K, 53, who works at Mama Eatery near the scene of the attack and who declined to give her full name.
“When I'm walking home I feel a little worried..a woman walking alone at night."
Siew said she would be more attentive walking home and would make sure not to be on the phone during her five-block walk.
The dry cleaner employee whose co-worker was attacked said that she was frightened that the man is still out there.
"Of course I was scared," she said. "I'm concerned. I'll be more careful, but there is really not much I can do."
Anyone with information regarding any of these incidents should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS or submit tips on their website.