It's time for another round of "why was this person out of jail?" following a very violent incident in San Francisco's Chinatown — and in this case it allegedly took the suspect less than two weeks to re-offend after getting paroled.
The 61-year-old suspect in Monday morning's brutal stabbing at Chinatown's AA Bakery & Cafe, identified by police Tuesday as Fook Poy Lai, has a long criminal history that includes a 2018 guilty plea for attempted murder in a 2016 stabbing in Portsmouth Square.
As NBC Bay Area reports, Lai's criminal history spans 24 years in San Francisco, beginning with a 1999 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. There was also a case of assault and elder abuse in 2006, for which he served eight months, and a couple of cases that ended up dismissed before he landed back in jail in 2016.
Lai was only released on parole for the 2016 conviction 10 days ago, as ABC 7 reports — the timing of his sentence is a bit unclear, since KPIX reports he was sentenced to nine years, and it appears he was let out early.
Witnesses to the stabbing, in which Lai allegedly walked behind the counter and stabbed a female employee in the head and neck multiple times, tell ABC 7 that they hope this case will spark some change in how people are sentenced and paroled.
"My hands are still shaking. This is how I feel and I believe a lot of people in the community are shaking," says David Lowe, a regular at AA Bakery, speaking to ABC 7.
Eva Lee with the Chinatown Merchants Association tells the station, "We're very tight knit. Everybody knows everybody else. So that's why it's more shocking than normal."
Witness Ding Lee also paints a picture of a potentially very disturbed suspect — and while no motive has been given by police, the criminal history and the description of the incident make it sound like a random attack.
"From the very beginning until the end, until he dropped the knife, and then the police officer caught him, he never say a word, never," Lee tells KPIX. Lee says he called 911, and he further said that Lai appeared to be in no hurry to leave the scene.
Fook Poy Lai, 61, (pic), a parolee, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, assault w/deadly weapon & burglary in stabbing of woman working at AA Bakery & Cafe near Stockton & Jackson in Chinatown, per @SFPD @SFPDCentral @sfpdinvestigate pic.twitter.com/fHpxLmkcL9— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) May 30, 2023
Lai has not yet been formally charged, and he's being held in county jail on suspicion of attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, and parole violation. Update: He's now been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, and second-degree burglary.
Anyone with information about Lai or this incident is asked to call the SFPD tip line at 415-575-4444, or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with “SFPD.” Tipsters can remain anonymous.
Image: Robert T. via Yelp