Forest Hills residents demand justice in fatal shooting of Zhiwen Yan

Zhiwen Yan
An area outside Great Wall Chinese Food in Forest Hills commemorates delivery worker Zhiwen Yan on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

As Forest Hills residents were gathered for a vigil on Wednesday night outside of the Great Wall Chinese restaurant where Zhiwen Yan worked, members of Community Board 6 expressed their frustration regarding the lack of transparency from the NYPD 112th Precinct’s ongoing investigation into the death of Yan, who was shot and killed less than two weeks ago. 

“The Asian community and our fellow Forest Hills neighbors are appalled by the lack of progress and transparency surrounding this homicide case. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions taken to seek justice for Mr. Yan and his family, who are all innocent victims, do not measure up to how the horrific murder of Mrs. Gaal was handled, which was swiftly and with a sense of urgency shared publicly,” local resident Jess said. 

On the night of April 30, Yan, 45, a father of three children, was shot while riding a scooter after making a delivery.

Yan food delivery shot
Zhiwen Yan, 45, was shot in the chest and killed while delivering food on his scooter at the corner of 108th Street and 67th Drive in Forest Hills on Saturday, April 30. (Photo via GoFundMe)

Yan’s death occurred two weeks after the gruesome murder of Forest Hills resident Orsolya Gaal, which shocked the community. According to residents, Gaal’s case received widespread media attention and a thorough investigation from the NYPD that led to the arrest of a suspect. 

It’s been 11 days since Yan’s death and although a suspect has been identified and no arrests have been made, residents are demanding justice for the family as they continue to seek answers from police regarding the investigation.

“The difference in attention these two cases received from the media speaks volumes as to how poor, immigrant people of color and laborers are treated by the newspapers and news stations,” local resident Xu said. “With the widespread media attention on Mrs. Gaal’s murder, the stories on Mr. Yan continue to be [few and far] between.” 

Previously, the police wanted to question a disgruntled customer at the Great Wall restaurant. However, NYPD 112th Precinct Deputy Inspector Joseph Cappelmann wouldn’t comment on whether that person was questioned, only saying the investigation is ongoing. 

During the CB 6 meeting, Cappelmann reassured residents that every available resource is being utilized to investigate the crime. 

“There’s been some bad information out there that it’s not being taken seriously, and that is false,” Cappelmann said. “I understand there is frustration, but a public forum is not the place to discuss the investigation and it would compromise the case going forward. We ask for patience as we do not discuss active murder investigations, and we are fighting to bring Mr. Yan’s family justice.”

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lynn Schulman and Congresswoman Grace Meng visited the Great Wall Chinese restaurant on May 9, where they met with the restaurant’s owner and Cappelmann to discuss safety concerns and ways to improve security. 

The two lawmakers visited other nearby business owners on Queens Boulevard to talk about how they can better protect themselves and their employees. They also met with detectives investigating the case. 

In a joint statement, Meng and Schulman said they remain committed to helping Yan’s loved ones in any way they can. 

“Zhiwen Yan was well known and beloved by many in the community, and our hearts continue to ache for his family. This was such a horrible and senseless tragedy, and we are confident that the person responsible will be apprehended and brought to justice. We thank the 112th Precinct for continuing its investigation into this terrible crime, and for addressing safety in the area with local businesses,” Meng and Schulman said. 

Meng is currently working to help secure a visa for the mother of Yan’s wife so that she can travel to New York from China to attend the funeral, which has been scheduled for May 24. 

In a written statement shared on Facebook by Edwin Wong, the Great Wall Chinese restaurant thanked the community for their outpouring of support. 

“We are thankful for everyone who has visited since we reopened and continue to patronize the restaurant. We continue to mourn the passing of Zhiwen Yan and hope the police capture the murderer as soon as possible. Please contact the police with any information you may have,” the Great Wall restaurant said.