SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Police in New York have arrested a man accused in a string of attacks on Asian women in Manhattan. 8 On Your Side learned the suspect, 28-year-old Steven Zajonc, has ties to the Tampa Bay area.

Zajonc is originally from New York, but lived in Sarasota County with his mother up until 2020 following a domestic incident.

The 28-year-old is now facing several hate crime charges. Police say he punched, elbowed and/or shoved seven women Sunday evening in approximately a two-hour time frame. The female victims ranged in age from 19 to 57. They were all of Asian decent.

8 On Your Side spoke at length with Zajonc’s mother Thursday, hours after she learned of his arrest. She declined an on-camera interview, but told us her son has battled mental health issues for several years and has struggled getting the help he needs. She says he was committed under the Baker Act multiple times while she lived with him in Florida.

His mother believes the 28-year-old was having an “episode” during the attacks, saying her son “in his right mind” would never want to hurt anyone. She says she experienced a close-call herself a few years back.

Sarasota County court records show Zajonc’s mother petitioned for a no-contact order against her son. In a document dated October 2020, she wrote her son “threatened to kill” her. She also detailed his history and struggle with mental health issues to the court.

Records from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office show officers responded to Zajonc’s home multiple times in the past for “mental cases,” welfare checks and family disputes.

It remains unclear why the 28-year-old targeted Asian-women. His mother tells 8 On Your Side he appreciated the culture and had plans to learn how to speak Japanese. She said she would like to send her deepest apologies to all of the women who were injured.

Zajonc remains in jail. He faces seven counts each of hate crime assault, hate crime attempted assault, aggravated harassment and harassment, according to officials.