CHICAGO — A man who was injured after a carjacking in Chinatown Thursday evening is speaking out to try to bring more attention to crime in the community where he grew up.
Paul Lee, 71, was celebrating the Chinese New Year at Phoenix Restaurant when he walked out to his car around 8:50 p.m. and was approached by a man on the 2100 block of South Archer Avenue. He was pushed to the ground as the offender grabbed the keys to his 2019 Range Rover.
The offender then got into the SUV and drove eastbound on Archer Avenue, police said.
"I was in total shock because Chinatown is usually a very safe place," he said.
Lee said he never imagined that he'd be the victim of a crime, but he said it goes to show that it could happen to any time to anyone.
Lee said the incident happened within seconds and on a well-lit street.
“I used to tell people let the car go, it’s only a car and don’t grab on to the car," Lee said. "When it happens to you, my immediate reaction was to grab the car, thinking, 'I could stop the guy.' And you can’t.”
The man who had jumped in the driver’s seat of his car floored it. Lee was dragged a few feet before he fell to the street, scraping his eye and hurting his knee.
"He knew what he was doing," Lee said. "He was a pro at it, I think.”
Police told lee he was lucky the man didn’t have a gun.
Lee's daughter, Nikki Lee, said she was shocked when she heard the news from her mother that her father was carjacked. She said her dad is a beloved member of the community and that many know him as "Uncle Paul."
"We are so grateful that he is safe and recovering from this incident," she said. "We thank all our friends and family for their well wishes and speedy recovery for my dad."
Lee said the recent crime in Chinatown is unacceptable. The close community where he grew up is still reeling from a double homicide earlier this month.
While carjackings are not unique to Chinatown, police said they are up 75% this year citywide. Lee said the spike in Chinatown has a bigger impact on tourism and also on the community of tight knit people who live there.
"It has traditionally been a very safe place and I want to keep it that way,” he said.
A sushi restaurant in the area had surveillance video from Thursday night that they gave it to police. The video shows the suspect waiting in the middle of the street, planning to steal someone’s car. The car did have a GPS tracking device. Police know it’s on the South Side but they haven’t been able to see it. The car is likely inside a garage.
It was previously reported by Chicago police that the man injured was 21. They later corrected his age.