A 55-year-old woman living in Queens, New York was crossing the street early Tuesday morning when a car occupied by multiple men pulled up alongside her. She told NBC 4 New York the men yelled anti-Hispanic slurs at her and then shot her in the face with a BB gun.
According to her account, the men laughed and shouted "we did it" as they approached her in the vehicle. The woman, who asked to remain unidentifiable, is an immigrant from Honduras and believes she was targeted because she is Hispanic.
"They have to stop doing this to people," she said. Police statistics point to a dramatic rise in hate crimes in New York City this year, with a 106 percent increase in March compared to this time last year. But as the targeted attacks are on the rise, arrest rates falter.
Gender-based harassment in public spaces is also a serious issue facing women in the U.S. Twenty-seven percent of women who have experienced street harassment reported assault in public by a stranger, according to a study published by Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit that documents gender-based street harassment.
"I know it's a BB gun, because I feel the impact in my face," the Queens woman told NBC 4 New York. "It's still inside right now." She went to a hospital for treatment after the attack, and discovered the pellet was lodged in her face. She will need plastic surgery to have it removed.
She said she was "terrified" by the attack. The incident is being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force.