SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Chinatown merchants say an attack on a shop owner over the weekend by a robbery suspect is an example of what they've been struggling with along with the hit on tourism due to the pandemic.
Fanly Chen, the owner of GoApple.co, was robbed and attacked Saturday at her store located on the 900 block of Grant Avenue, in the heart of Chinatown.
She's frustrated, saying that theft is an ongoing problem.
Chen takes pride in serving the Chinese community by providing service and cell phone accessories to customers who don't speak English. But what happened has left her shaken.
"I feel scared, very scared and I feel no safety," says Chen.
She shared surveillance video with KTVU. It shows the suspect in yellow attacking Chen by using what appears to be pepper spray.
She says the confrontation started hours earlier when the suspect came into the store and stole three cell phone covers.
A half hour later, she says he returned to try to exchange the stolen items.
She says she told him, "You have to pay first. If you go, I call police. He said call police, I don't care."
Chen yelled for help and a tourist stopped the suspect and retrieved the stolen items during a scuffle.
But she says the suspect hit the good Samaritan and Chen before taking off.
The shop owner says later-around closing time, the suspect returned to pepper spray her, telling her he was retaliating for what happened earlier.
"My eyes could not open. I cannot see anything. I just run to the bathroom, washing my eyes," says Chen. She was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Neighboring merchant Yvonne Lin came to check on Chen Monday afternoon.
Lin says she's operated her shop, City Gifts, for 30 years. She says the same suspect stole from her a few weeks ago. Lin says shoplifting is a common problem, happening every week and the thefts have made doing business extremely difficult.
Chen says she is concerned the suspect, whom she suspects may be a minor, will return again.
"I'm scared more than angry because that kid knows where I am, so easy to get back to me," says Chen.
She says she's a single mom and relies on the business to support her family.
Chen says she's frustrated that theft is often not treated seriously.
She worries that even if the suspect is arrested, he'll be back out on the streets in no time.
Police say they've stepped up patrols but that they have not yet identified the suspect. He faces robbery and aggravated assault charges.