‘He came here because of his three children’: Bay Ridge community honors victim of U-Haul attack at candlelit vigil

eric adams at bay ridge u-haul vigil
Mayor Eric Adams said the city is working to advance Vision Zero at a Monday evening vigil for the victims of the U-Haul attack in Bay Ridge.
Caroline Ourso

City officials and Bay Ridge locals gathered to mourn the loss of a 44-year-old single father in last week’s U-Haul attack on Monday evening.

YiJie Ye, a local delivery driver, was killed and seven other people were injured in the Feb. 13 incident, when a man allegedly went on a rampage in a rented U-Haul truck, driving up onto sidewalks and into crosswalks to strike pedestrians and e-bike riders. Multiple victims were hospitalized with severe injuries. 

“We light these candles to honor the grief and loss felt by so many of us gathered, and to honor the memory and life of YiJie Ye,” said Karen Tadross, president of Bay Ridge Cares. 

A GoFundMe started by Ye’s cousin to support his three children has raised more than $100,000 — double its original goal. Another victim, Mohamed Abdelmagid, has also started a fundraiser to help pay for his medical bills as he deals with fractures in his rib cage, right wrist, and foot. 

people at vigil for u-haul attack
Bay Ridge locals and politicians called for more mental health programs and resources to address traffic violence at a Feb. 20 vigil for victims of the Bay Ridge U-Haul attack. Caroline Ourso

The day after the attack, as he recovered at home, Abgelmagid told Brooklyn Paper’s sister site amNewYork Metro he was “thankful to be alive” after the terrifying attack. Lawyers for victim Mohammed Zakaria Salah Rakchi said he had suffered multiple broken bones and was placed in a medically-induced coma due to bleeding in the brain. 

“[Ye] came here 18 years ago, for what? For the American Dream,” said state Sen. Andrew Gounardes. “He came here because of his three children. He would drive a bike in rain and snow and hot and cold and collect cans in his off-times to be able to put money aside for his kids to go to school. To have a future here. Let that not be lost on any of us when we think about his memory.”

“What are they going to do this week?” said state Sen. Iwen Chu, referring to Ye’s children. “When school starts, can they continue their school, their education, here? My office has offered assistance and help and contacted the family and works closely with the NYPD.”

Everyone is vulnerable to traffic violence, Gounardes said, remarking that his wife frequently takes walk in the nabe where the attack took place. There’s work to do on every level of government to make the streets safer — and some of that work comes down to the responsibility of individuals to look after each other.

andrew gounardes speaks at u-haul vigil for yijie ye
Gounardes said Ye, a single father, had moved to the U.S. to better care for his children. Caroline Ourso

“We’re here because we are focused on Vision Zero not being a word, but Vision Zero being an actualization as we make our streets safe,” said Mayor Eric Adams at the vigil. “We made progress this year, but that is no consolation to someone that loses their loved one to … traffic violence as we witnessed here. This person was experiencing some real mental health issues that we must focus on and face to make sure our city is safe, and I’m committed to doing so.”

But a focus on Vision Zero – the citywide effort to reduce car crashes and the number of pedestrians and bikers struck and killed by drivers — isn’t enough to solve the issue. Police believe the suspect, 62-year-old Weng Sor, had a psychotic break that prompted the rampage. Sor allegedly told police they “should have shot him” when he was finally stopped last Tuesday morning. 

Steve Mei, director of Brooklyn Community Services at the Chinese-American Planning Council, noted that the alleged attacker was an older Asian man – as was the suspect in the Monterey Park mass shooting last month. 

“I think the reality for a lot of people in our community is we suffer in silence, especially older Asian males,” Mei said. “We worry that by speaking up or speaking out, we are burdening everyone else.” 

More mental health services are needed, Mei said, especially for seniors and older adults — and the city should pay.

u-haul on sidewalk in bay ridge
Police said they believe the perpetrator suffered a psychotic break before the incident, and told police they “should have shot him” when he was finally stopped. File photo by Dean Moses

“The CPC does have services for this,” he said. “We have a geriatric mental health service that’s funded by the city counsel. We provide counseling, benefits, support.”

Sor, the suspect, has eight prior arrests dating back to 2002, according to the NYPD — including on charges of domestic battery and evading police. NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Sor was stopped by police twice in the days leading up to the attack, and likely “had a death wish” when he began the massacre. 

Support is also needed in the community that suffered the attack — the incident has affected “each and every one of us,” he said. 

“I am really heartened that when there’s tragedy or this community is in need, everyone comes together,” Mei said. “We know that we’re here for each other.”