By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A woman was attacked with pepper spray in Manhattan, the latest in a concerning string of assaults against Asian New Yorkers.

“I felt helpless,” 30-year-old Yaeji Kim told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

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Kim was walking home from work around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 when a car pulled up beside her on West Houston by Mercer Street.

“He has the window down in the passenger seat and then just sprayed something,” Kim said.

Police believe that passenger shot pepper spray directly into Kim’s eyes.

“It just started burning and I couldn’t stop crying and my nose was running and I just couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

The car drove away, and Kim raced home, in pain and in tears.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I never thought it would happen to me,” she said.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise nationwide.

READ MORE: Mayor De Blasio Pushes Campaign Against Anti-Asian Hate Crimes, Including Financial Penalties And Potential Jail Time

In New York City last year, there were 29, 24 of which were motivated by COVID-19.

Last summer, the NYPD designated a permanent branch of its hate crimes task force assigned solely to anti-Asian crimes.

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a campaign to end such crimes.

“I’m sure I was targeted due to my race,” Kim said.

Police sources tell CBS2 this crime is currently classified as an assault but not as a hate crime. Kim’s attacker did not say anything to her and the NYPD requires words to be exchanged to classify it as a hate crime.

“I can’t really say that they should change the policy, but I think they should consider that there are some hate crimes without verbal language,” Kim said.

Police are still looking for the suspect but so far have not made any arrests.

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Sources tell CBS2 the NYPD is leaving open the possibility that new evidence could lead them to reclassify this assault as a hate crime.

Ali Bauman