Pizza shop owner and father stabbed 10 times while trying to help Asian woman during street robbery

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Louie Suljovic was working at his pizzeria on Saturday night when he heard a scream from his father, Cazim. An elderly Asian woman was robbed and stabbed outside the store in a New York City borough of Queens.

Suljovic had only one thought as he rushed out to intervene: “Someone is in trouble and they need help,” he told TODAY. “That is it.”

The 38-year-old and his father chased the people who had hurt the woman and fought back as soon as they caught up with them. Cazim Suljovic was stabbed nine times and Louie Suljovic once beside his spine, puncturing his lung.

At a time of increasing anti-Asian violence in the US, many – including the New York Police Department – have hailed Louie Suljovic and his father as heroes for their intervention in the attack.

Louie Suljovic is recovering from a stab wound near his spine that resulted in a punctured lung.

“We’re not going to let things like this happen,” said Louie Suljovic. “We take care of our community.”

The person initially attacked is a 61-year-old Korean woman, according to NBC New York. She was once stabbed in the back by her coat.

Louie Suljovic said he is not “100% sure” of her condition. But if he could talk to her, he has one simple message: “We love you, and we’re here for you, and we’ll always be there for you,” he told TODAY.

‘That’s just who he is’

Aferdita Suljovic, Louie’s mother, told TODAY that hearing her son’s voice after the attack brought an immediate sense of relief — and then a sense of pride.

“That’s how we all grew up; if you see someone, you have to help someone,” she said.

Her family is from Albania and when they first arrived in the United States, they relied on their community to get through the struggle to settle in a new place. She said that her son, along with her other children, was raised to always help people, even strangers.

“That’s just who he is,” she said.

Louie Suljovic continues to recover from his injuries.

Louie Suljovic continues to recover from his injuries.

Louie Suljovic is recovering at a hospital in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, opposite his shop, Louie’s Pizza. During the coronavirus pandemic, Suljovic served food to essential hospital workers to keep them well fed and provide some normalcy.

“Your local store is there for you; it’s just the one thing that will always be normal,” he said.

The youngster Suljovic said the tube was removed from his lung on Tuesday and he hopes to be discharged soon.

“He already wants to go up and down,” Aferdita Suljovic said of her son’s condition.

Cazim Suljovic will remain in hospital for several more days to recover from his injuries, Louie Suljovic said.

According to NBC New York, two suspects have been arrested.

Rising Anti-Asian Harassment and Violence

Louie Suljovic said he has noticed that New York City is becoming increasingly violent, especially against people from the Asian-American community. Intervening in the attack on the 61-year-old woman was his way of “standing up.”

“If the communities don’t start taking back their territories, we’re going to lose our city,” he said.

“We have had enough of the sheer violence against people who cannot defend themselves,” he added.

The organization Stop AAPI Hate has monitored the increase in violence and has counted more than 10,000 hate incidents against the community across the country since March 2020, around the time of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2021, six Asian women were shot dead at various Atlanta spas. In January, Michelle Go was pushed in front of a New York City subway and died. In February, Christina Yuna Lee, 35, was stabbed to death in her apartment after a man followed her home. These attacks have left many members of the Asian-American community feeling unsafe.

For bystanders who witness these attacks, Louie Suljovic encourages others to stand up too.

“If we stand on the sidelines and just record an incident and post it on social media, you are no better than the person who is the perpetrator,” he said.

Stop AAPI Hate has a list of resources on how to be a community ally, including: safety tips for what to do if you witness a hate crime. The organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice also offers virtual training on intervention that focuses on five security strategies: distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct.

‘We need change’

Aferdita Suljovic said her son’s actions were ultimately unconditional.

It was a human life, that was the most important thing for him,” she said.

But she hopes Louie Suljovic’s actions will change the way people approach these incidents.

“I hope we change; we need change,” she said.

For Elizabeth Amber Gomez, a New York-born, second-generation Chinese woman and activist, Louie Suljovic’s actions sparked hope.

“It’s extremely rare, especially when it comes to guns and in New York City,” Gomez told TODAY.

She said she often sees taped videos of hate crimes against Asian-American people without the intervention of bystanders.

“It was hopeful, I think, to see someone who was a bystander come in and actually risk their own life to save another,” she said. “We need that hope, that unity to keep us going. We feel like we’re alone.”

Community support

An Elmhurst community member started a GoFundMe for Louie and Cazim Suljovic to help with medical expenses and pay for staff as the restaurant remains closed after the incident.

In just two days, the page has raised more than $188,000 from more than 3,900 donors, dwarfing its original goal of $75,000.

Louie Suljovic said these donations give him time to recover rather than rushing to reopen his local store.

“It’s a huge relief for us,” he says.

Donors of the AAPI community have left thanks on the fundraiser page, calling the Suljovics heroes.

“Wishing the wonderful people a speedy recovery. I live in another state, but I will be dining out soon, so I hope and pray that you leave the hospital sooner. There were also news articles about you in Korean news. All Koreans thank you,” said one donor.

“I donated because it takes a true hero to put oneself in danger to save a stranger,” wrote another.

The fundraiser’s founder, a “worried neighbor and regular customer of Louie’s Pizza,” has launched a call for more information to help the woman who was initially attacked.

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