By Danielle Esyed-Mason, CNN
The suspect arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the fatal beating of a Chinese national that sparked a public outcry this week in New York is a 19-year-old man, the NYPD announced on Saturday.
The deadly attack, which brought street protests and drew attention to the alleged abuse of Asian Americans by Trump supporters, has been tied to the New Year’s Eve robbery of the 38-year-old victim.
“We have identified the suspect who has been identified as the main suspect for the attack on that Chinese woman,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information J. Peter Donald said.
Michael Velez pleaded not guilty on Friday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn. He was charged on Friday with first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
US court filings in a February court appearance showed that Velez waived his right to appear for further arraignment on charges that he fatally beat Xiuying Qian.
CNN’s attempts to reach Velez for comment were unsuccessful. He was later sent to a psychiatric facility.
Quan’s body was found on Monday, and she was attacked inside a subway station in Queens. Quan was trying to help a man who had been assaulted when she was hit with a full baseball bat, according to police.
The attacker then beat Quan to death, police said.
Family and friends have called on the suspect to be charged with a hate crime.
“How is this possible that after we know that he is the one who beat her to death and left her for dead in the subway, now he is calling the victim a thug?” Michelle Lin, one of Quan’s friends, told CNN on Thursday.
Trump supporters are also claiming it was a case of mistaken identity.
Trump’s national spokesman, who had called Quan a “horrible victim” and vowed the president would get to the bottom of the case, on Friday stepped back.
“The focus now needs to be on justice and ensuring that justice is served for the family and friend of this young woman,” Jason Miller said.
Velez, the person arrested this week, had just finished high school and had moved to the United States from New York’s Queens borough, where police said the fatal attack took place.
CNN attempted to reach Velez’s family Saturday.