The highest ranking uniformed member of the NYPD, Chief of Department Philip Banks III, spoke plainly on Sunday of the horror police faced late Saturday night when they responded to a stabbing in Brooklyn.
Responding officers arrived to find four young children and their mother “cut and butchered with a kitchen knife” in their Sunset Park home, Banks said.
“It’s just a scene that you’ll never forget,” Banks said. He called the killing “an unspeakable act.”
The youngest child was one year old, the eldest nine years old. Banks said they were “the victims of a horrific act by a family member.”
Their father’s cousin, 25-year-old Mingdon Chen, was charged on Sunday with one count of murder in the first degree and four counts of murder in the second degree.
A meat cleaver was found at the scene, and Banks said Chen made statements “alluding to his participation in this attack” and that he had used the meat cleaver “to commit this act.”
Chen was photographed Saturday night barefoot, with his feet smeared with blood, being led from the scene by police officers.
Banks said Chen was also charged with assaulting an officer at the 66th Precinct, as well as resisting arrest and five counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Chen reportedly attacked the officer processing his arrest.
The NYPD is now working to figure out what Chen’s motive might have been, Banks said. The police chief said Chen made vague statements to officers that “since he’s been in this country, everybody’s been doing better than him.”
Chen only speaks Mandarin and came to the U.S. from China in 2004. Banks declined to say if he was in the country illegally. Officers have been assisting detectives with translation, Banks said.
Banks said the NYPD does not know if Chen had any documented history of mental illness.
“But we believe if you commit such an act like this, you cannot be too sane,” Banks said.
Chen’s last known address is in Chicago, and NYPD spokesman John McCarthy said police are unsure if he was visiting his cousin or if Chen recently moved to the city. McCarthy said Chen arrived in the city about eight to ten days ago. As far as police know at this point, Chen had no prior arrests.
Police said Chen stabbed his cousin’s wife and four children while his cousin was at work.
Officers found Qiao Zhen Li, 37, with multiple stab wounds to her upper body around 10:44 p.m. in the 57th Street home. Her four children, all under 10-years-old, had similar injuries.
Linda Zhuo, 9, Amy Zhuo, 7, and William Zhuo, 18 months old, were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.Banks said their wounds were located primarily around the neck and upper torso.
Li and her 5-year-old son, Kevin Zhuo, were rushed to nearby hospitals where they were pronounced dead.
Police have made some headway into their investigation of the events that led up to the attack.
Banks said police believe Chen was behaving oddly, and that Li had tried to call her husband but couldn’t reach him. She called her mother-in-law in China, police said, who also tried to reach her son but to no avail. The mother-in-law then called her own daughter, the father’s sister, who lives near Li. The sister and her husband went to check on the family, Banks said.
“They bang on the door and bang on the door,” Banks said. “At some point, [Chen] opens the door and they see that he’s covered in blood.”
Banks said that the husband’s sister had never seen Chen before, even though he is her cousin and was staying with her brother’s family.
McCarthy said the murder was particularly affecting not just because of the young age of most of the victims, but the number of victims as well.
“This is not something that’s been seen before in recent history,” McCarthy said.
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