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Stabbing suspect has long, violent history targeting San Francisco bakery

Defendant Fook Poy Lai enters court at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on June 1, 2023. Lai is accused of stabbing an employee at AA Bakery on Stockton Street on May 29, 2023. | Han Li/The Standard

A stabbing incident inside a bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown last month shook the neighborhood, which is already reeling from public safety issues. Now, court documents reveal that the episode appears to have been a targeted act and not a random crime, as the suspect has long had a fixation with the business.

Fook Poy Lai, 61, was arrested on May 29 after he allegedly stabbed a female worker in the neck inside the AA Bakery on Stockton Street. The victim was sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Police work outside AA Bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown after a witness says a female worker was stabbed in the neck on May 29, 2023. | Courtesy photo

More details about Lai later surfaced and showed that, in 2016, Lai had also attacked Dian Chen, the 89-year-old father of AA Bakery owner Henry Chen. He was later sentenced to nine years and released from prison last month.

Conflicts between Lai and the bakery go back even further, to more than a decade ago.

Court records show before the 2016 attack, Lai had two “uncharged offenses” related to the shop. On April 15, 2007, Lai allegedly assaulted Dian Chen and an employee in the AA Bakery, prompting Henry Chen to detain him until police came.

“[Lai] had entered the bakery to order a pastry and had helped himself to some coffee. When an employee asked him to pay for the coffee [Lai] became enraged and, after arguing with the employee, picked up a chair and struck the employee with it,” court records state. Lai then proceeded to attack Dian Chen, punching him in the face.

About seven years later, on July 7, 2014, police responded to an incident involving vandalism, as Lai was said to have used a hammer to break the bakery’s windows. When Lai was arrested, the bakery’s two glass panels and two glass doors of the panel were shattered, and Lai was found holding a hammer, a cleaver and a box-cutter knife in an open bag. Surveillance footage showed Lai striking the front windows and door, the records say.

“That is, [Lai] has a documented history of targeting the [Dian Chen] and his son’s bakery since 2007,” the court record concludes.

Dian Chen died several years after the 2016 attack. Henry Chen has previously said that he didn’t know Lai and declined to comment further.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has opted to pursue charges of attempted murder and other serious felonies. Lai’s defense attorney has argued that his client has an extensive history of mental-health issues.

The next court date will be June 27.