Zhiwen Yan is the deliveryman who was killed in Queens Saturday, April 30, 2022. The Great Wall delivery worker was shot to death while riding his scooter in Forest Hills. Yan is being remembered by his customers as an “unsung hero” for his positivity and perseverance. He was 45.
A video from a nearby surveillance camera showed Yan’s last moments as he left a delivery. The video, which also captured the shooting from a distance, is posted below and may be disturbing to some viewers. Yan lived in the Middle Village with his wife and children.
Police told the Daily News Yan was likely hit by a stray bullet as he rode through Forest Hills on a delivery. He was near 108th Street and 67th Drive at about 9:30 p.m. when a man began firing shots, one which hit Yan in the chest, the news outlet reported. He was on his way to his next delivery when he was shot. Yan was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he died, the Daily News reported. No arrests had been made in the case as of Monday, May 2.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Yan Was a Married Father of 3 & Emigrated From China 2 Decades Ago
Yan had been married for seven years and had three children — two daughters and a son, according to the Daily News. His widow is Kun Ying Zhao, who also goes by Eva.
James Zhao, Yan’s cousin, told the Daily News that they only wanted to provide for their families.
“I don’t know how I can explain how I feel,” he said. “We just want to work and make money and lay low and her husband doesn’t do anything wrong, nothing bad.”
2. Yan’s Wife, Kun Ying Zhao, Said He Was Always Working to Provide for His Family
Family members told the Daily News Yan worked three jobs to provide for his family, including for the Great Wall on Queens Boulevard, where he worked for 14 years. The Great Wall was about six blocks from where the shooting took place, the Daily News reported.
“I keep crying,” Zhao told the Daily News. “He meant everything to me. He took good care of me and the family.”
She told CBS New York they had recently opened a laundromat to help provide for the family.
She tearfully spoke through a translator to the news station about the moment she learned her husband was dead. She arrived at the hospital too late to see him one last time, she said.
“They told me, ‘Your husband died.’ I told them they are lying. My heart broke into pieces. I told him, ‘Please stand up and come home with me,'” Kun Ying Zhao said.
The grief stretched far beyond Yan’s inner circle, leaving a void with customers who remembered him for his friendly spirit, according to Fox 5 New York.
“He was the heart of Forest Hills to so many,” Matthew Murray told the news station.
3. Yan Was Beloved By His Customers, Who Said He Would Remember Them & Called Them ‘My Friend’
Yan’s customers told the Daily News he referred to his customers as “my friend.” It would only take one delivery for Yan to remember a customer, and he would say “hi” to them on the street, customers told the Daily News.
“He was always very pleasant, always with a smile, always very respectful. Even during COVID, he would deliver,” Great Wall regular Liza Padilla told the outlet. “He was a first responder in a sense. He was always there. When nobody could go out, they were still delivering. And he was one of the delivery people that we cherished.”
Jennifer Trujillo, 47, told the Daily News she would often see Yan on his scooter, and he would always say “hello.”
“You would see him in the building. He always greeted us,” she said. “Even in the street, if he was on his scooter, he would remember us and he would always say hello.”
Another customer, Neil Murray, said Yan would never miss the opportunity to greet his friends.
“You could be two blocks away and he would go, ‘My friend!’ One hand up,” Murray told the Daily News. “He delivered food to us maybe last Saturday. We always order from here. You saw him delivering everywhere. I was up near Kew Gardens and what do I hear? ‘My friend!'”
He said Yan could never be caught in a bad mood. Murray recalled a recent storm when he hesitated to place a delivery order because of the bad weather. Yan arrived in a long green poncho with his typical cheery attitude.
“You never see him have a miserable moment,” Murray told the Daily News. “He’s what I call the unsung hero. No one’s going to pay him attention because he’s just a delivery guy. But out here, he was the greatest.”
4. Friends & Strangers Offered Support to the Family Through a GoFundMe
Yan’s widow, Kun Ying “Eva” Zhao, started a GoFundMe to help raise funds after her husband’s death. The online fundraiser had generated more than $60,000 as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday, May 2.
“I’m starting a fundraiser for my husband because he passed away last night. He was a hardworking delivery man and always provided for his family,” the page said, followed by a link to a news story.
Friends who knew Yan as their delivery driver, and others who simply heard about the story, took the time to send condolences.
“Rest in peace, my Friend. I’m sorry we failed you. Thank you for making the world seem brighter with every wave, smile and greeting,” wrote Geraldine Chadenat.
“We are are so sorry for your family’s loss. I have heard so many ways your husband has touched our community. My deepest condolences to your family during his time,” Mindy Tsoi wrote.
“‘TILL WE MEET AGAIN MY FRIEND ‘ … we will always love you ,,, thank you for those beautiful hellos and smiles and “ the hello my friends” they will not EVER be forgotten,,, HELLO MY FRIEND we will miss you always,” wrote Patricia Pita.
“I’m shocked and so very sorry for your tragic loss. We lived in Forest Hills for 18 years until we moved last year, and we frequently saw Zhiwen Yan’s smiling face. Not only was he always friendly when he delivered food, he would often wave and call out, “Hello my friend!” when we would see him on the street making deliveries,” wrote Jonathan Schweizer. “Forest Hills will miss his presence, but we will be keeping you your family in our thoughts.”
“I’m so sorry,” wrote George Capalbo. “As an Asian American, hearing what happened has broken my heart. We may be strangers but I and thousands of others are thinking of your family tonight.”
5. A Memorial to Yan Appeared Outside the Great Wall Restaurant & Many Stopped By the Pay Their Respects
An impromptu memorial sprung up outside the Great Wall restaurant, including cards and flowers.
“Touching memorial in front of Great Wall for Zhiwen Yan,” Christina Fan of CBS New York wrote on Twitter. “So many handwritten notes say “my friend.” We’re told that was a catchphrase of Yan’s as he rode around Queens 7 days a week making deliveries, always with a smile, always without complaint.”
Friends, neighbors and customers stopped by the memorial to pay their respects.
“He was the nicest person, I’m like, what happened?” Denise Castagna, a neighbor, told Fox 5 New York.
Cheng Long Huang, Yan’s nephew, told CBS New York he was struggling to make sense of the murder.
“At first we all thought he had been robbed, but to find that he was murdered for no reason at all on the street, I can’t understand,” he told the news station.