Salman Muflihi, of Brooklyn, allegedly pulled an 8-inch knife on the 36-year-old Asian man at about 6:20 p.m. Thursday, according to police sources.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case as a hate crime, despite initial indications by police. Investigators have nothing so far to indicate the defendant ever saw the victim’s face prior to the attack, a law enforcement official told ABC News.
To prove a hate crime, prosecutors would have to show the defendant intentionally targeted the victim based on race. The criminal complaint does not indicate statements related to race.
Muflihi also was charged with two counts of assault and criminal possession of a weapon, court records show. Prosecutors said they may bring additional charges if warranted.
Muflihi pleaded not guilty to the charges on Saturday in New York Criminal Court. Bail was set at $500,000.
The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition and suffered "multiple injuries, including a punctured liver and significant internal bleeding," according to the criminal complaint. The victim underwent surgery, during which doctors removed one of his kidneys and his adrenal gland, prosecutors said. He was still hospitalized in critical condition and "may not survive," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Adam Johnson said Saturday in court.
"This case is every New Yorker's worst nightmare," Johnson said. "To be attacked by a complete and total stranger with a large knife for no reason at all."
The two had no prior interaction, prosecutors said, before Muflihi allegedly stabbed the victim in his lower back. After the attack, the suspect ran away and allegedly said, "I'm sorry," according to prosecutors.
Muflihi allegedly walked into the nearby Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and told a security guard outside that he "just stabbed a guy up the block," prosecutors said.
The suspect allegedly told detectives that he "didn’t like the way" the victim "looked at him," according to police sources. During his arrest processing, Muflihi also allegedly said, "I stabbed that guy. If he dies, he dies. I don't give a f---," according to the complaint.
"This is a strong case with video evidence, eyewitnesses and a confession from the defendant," Johnson said.
Muflihi faces a minimum of five years in state prison and a maximum of 25 years, prosecutors said. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 3. ABC News was unable to reach his attorney.
In 2019, Muflihi pleaded guilty to assault and has an open misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking a "stranger for no reason in a bodega," prosecutors said.
Violence against Asians has been growing during the pandemic.
Between March and December last year, the organization Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate recorded nearly 3,000 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide.
On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other officials rallied in lower Manhattan near the scene of the stabbing to call for an end to violence against Asian Americans.