Fatal Shooting of Deliveryman Stuns a Queens Neighborhood

A restaurant deliveryman was shot and killed at a stoplight in Queens, the police said on Sunday, an act that has shocked and unnerved a neighborhood where he was a beloved fixture.

Zhiwen Yan, 45, was sitting on his scooter waiting for the light to change at an intersection in Forest Hills on Saturday night when a man approached him on foot from across the street and fired several shots, the police said. The gunman then retreated to a car and drove away, the police said.

Mr. Yan was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead. There were no arrests as of Sunday evening, according to the police.

Officials did not offer a motive for the shooting, but said they were investigating the possibility that Mr. Yan, a Chinese immigrant, had been targeted because of his Asian ethnicity in an episode of road rage.

Mr. Yan was shot less than a half-mile from the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant on Queens Boulevard where he had worked for more than 20 years.

For some, his violent death added to anxiety about safety in a middle-class neighborhood where residents rarely had reason to worry.

Bouquets of flowers were placed outside Zhiwen Yan’s workplace on Sunday.Credit…Gina Heeb

“He was one of the people I would see and think, ‘This is Forest Hills,’” said Michael Murray, who lives across the street from the Great Wall. “Having been here for 31 years, I’ve not seen anything like this in all my life. It makes me really scared and sad.”

U.S. Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat who represents the area, said she met with Mr. Yan’s wife, Kunying Zhao, at the family home in Middle Village, Queens, on Sunday afternoon. “I was barely able to talk to her because she was just frozen with despair,” Ms. Meng said.

Mr. Yan, a native of Fuzhou in eastern China, was his family’s breadwinner, she said. “He worked such long hours to be able to provide for his children and to make a successful living here, so that his kids can grow up and be whatever they wanted to be. And now his family is just devastated because that’s taken away from them.”

Sooi Chung, a longtime co-worker, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Yan had worked seven days a week to support his wife and three children, who range in age from 2 to 15. When business was slow, she said, he would help his wife, who works at a nearby laundromat.

Councilwoman Julie Won, who is Korean American, said Mr. Yan’s death symbolized the perils facing delivery workers, many of whom are Asian American. They have been the target of violent attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, and they have also been failed by public safety and labor systems that leave their lives at risk as they seek to eke out a living, she said.

The Great Wall was closed on Sunday, but more than a dozen customers gathered outside and shared stories about Mr. Yan. Nearly a dozen bouquets were lined up outside the restaurant in the afternoon, and some people left notes to his family on greeting cards.

Among those who came to pay their respects was Andres Villa, 45, a handyman at a Forest Hills building. He remembered Mr. Yan as a hard worker with a cheerful demeanor.

“He was always running around no matter what kind of weather we had,” Mr. Villa said. “Rain and snow, he was always working. He always yelled to everyone, ‘Hello, my friend!’”

Mr. Villa said he once saw a driver bump into Mr. Yan’s car, which was full of delivery orders. Mr. Yan didn’t get angry, he said. “He just said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back,’ and went to deliver the food,” Mr. Villa said.

Mr. Yan’s killing was the second so far this year in the 112th Precinct, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park, an area that had not previously seen a killing since 2016, according to police statistics.

Last month, a passer-by discovered the body of Orsolya Gaal stuffed in a hockey bag on the side of the road in Forest Hills. The police later arrested a handyman, David Bonola, with whom officials said she had been having an on-and-off affair, and charged him with stabbing her to death.

Increases so far this year in robberies, shootings and thefts have pushed crime in the 112th Precinct nearly 50 percent higher than last year, though the total number of incidents remains below 300, according to the most recent data on April 24.

Frances Kweller, who owns and runs a tutoring program in Forest Hills, said that she had hired a full-time security guard for the past two years, after previously only having a part-time guard.

Her company orders from the Great Wall almost daily, and Mr. Yan was frequently the one who dropped off the food, she said. He would always greet the children at the center with a warm smile and dote on her mini-labradoodle.

“He was just a joyful, kind person,” she said, adding this his death was “a tragic loss and it’s very traumatic.”

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