NEW YORK (AP) — The suspect in a fatal hammer attack last month at a Chinese restaurant in New York City was arraigned Friday from a psychiatric ward on murder and hate crime charges.
Arthur Martunovich, 34, was ordered held without bail.
He has been hospitalized since his arrest in the wake of the Jan. 15 dinnertime ambush that killed three men at Seaport Buffet in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.
Martunovich, who’s white and lived near the restaurant, told police that he felt “Chinese men are awful” and that he believed they “hold their women captive,” according to records made public after the arraignment.
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Police have said Martunovich told officers he was motivated to commit the attack by a movie in which Asian men treated Asian women poorly. He allegedly told a Latino employee he encountered on his way into the restaurant that he wouldn’t be harmed.
“I left my apartment with the hammer,” Martunovich told police, according to the records. “I brought the hammer to prove my love to women. I threw the hammer but I don’t remember.”
Martunovich’s lawyer called the case “exceptionally tragic” and said that the Estonian immigrant will likely spend the rest of his life in a hospital.
“My client is very sick. He is very sick,” lawyer Ed Mandery told The Associated Press. “It’s a horrible situation. It’s hard to comment behind that. He’s not an evil man, he’s a sick man.”
Judge Danny Chun conducted the arraignment via a video hookup. Martunovich’s next court date is March 4.
According to police, Martunovich walked into Seaport Buffet just after 5 p.m. and began whacking unsuspecting men working there with a hammer before fleeing on foot. A hammer was found at the scene.
Chef Fufai Pun, 34, died in the attack. Owner Kheong Ng-Thang, 60, died three days later. Manager Tsz Mat Pun, 50, died at a hospital last week.
Martunovich faces three counts under the state’s top murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he’s convicted.
He is also charged with assaulting two police officers after the attack.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said he is “committed to seeking justice for these three victims and their heartbroken families, friends and neighbors.”
“This was a violent, horrific and harrowing attack on three completely innocent, hardworking men who were targeted simply because they were Asian,” Gonzalez said. “Sheepshead Bay, like all of Brooklyn, celebrates its diversity and will not tolerate vicious, hate-filled attacks in its community.”
Follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak