A Manhattan Beach man faces life in prison without parole for allegedly murdering three Asian employees of a Sheepshead Bay restaurant with a hammer, according to the district attorney, who on Friday announced he will prosecute the killings as a hate crime.
Prosecutors slapped Arthur Martunovich, 34, with a 21-count indictment including first-degree murder, second-degree murder as a hate crime, and other charges for what District Attorney Eric Gonzalez described as an atrocious and racist attack.
“This was a violent, horrific and harrowing attack on three completely innocent, hardworking men who were targeted simply because they were Asian. Sheepshead Bay, like all of Brooklyn, celebrates its diversity and will not tolerate vicious, hate-filled attacks in its community,” Gonzalez said.
Martunovich, whom a Police Department spokeswoman previously described as emotionally disturbed, was arraigned on Friday before Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun via video conference from Bellevue Hospital, where he is being held in the psych ward, according to Gonzalez’s spokeswoman Helen Peterson.
Chun ordered Martunovich be held without bail, and that he submit to a psychiatric exam to see whether he is fit to stand trial, which will be determined by the time of his next court date on March 4, Peterson said.
The defendant on Jan. 15 walked into the Seaport Buffet on Emmons Avenue near E. 21st Street armed with a hammer around 5:11 pm, telling a Latino employee that he would not harm him before brutally bludgeoning the three Asian victims in the head with the tool, according to Gonzalez. An eyewitness told this newspaper the scene was a “bloodbath.”
Paramedics rushed the victims — the restaurant’s 34-year-old chef, Fufai Pun, his uncle and a co-owner of the eatery, 50-year-old Tsz Mat Pun, and its 60-year-old manager, Thang Ng — to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, where doctors immediately pronounced the younger Pun dead, and the elder Pun and Ng later died from their blunt-force injuries on Jan. 18 and 24 respectively, according to prosecutors.
Following his arrest, Martunovich allegedly told cops that he targeted the three men because of their race, according to the district attorney.
Gonzalez’s announcement of the charges comes a week after pols, activists, and locals rallied on Jan. 25 outside the buffet to demand he prosecute the alleged triple homicide as a hate crime.
A co-host of the rally claimed Martunovich watched a film depicting Asian men abusing women before his alleged killing spree, which convinced the suspect that he was a savior.
“He entered the restaurant motivated by a racial stereotype of gender relations in my community, with a goal to massacre, believing himself to be sort of a savior, the attacker bludgeoned these restaurant workers while they were doing their job,” Chinese-American Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D–Manhattan) said at the rally.
Peterson, however, could not confirm Chin’s claim that the film motivated the attack.