A man charged with murder last month in the killing of a Chinese food delivery worker amid a dispute over duck sauce was found dead on Friday after shooting himself in his Queens apartment, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The man’s lawyer confirmed that his client appeared to have killed himself.
The authorities found the man, Glenn Hirsch, 51, while checking on him after he failed to appear in court in the murder case, the lawyer, Arthur L. Aidala, said. An official cause of death had not been determined as of Friday afternoon, the medical examiner’s office said. Mr. Hirsch left behind a note, according to the two people with knowledge of the matter.
At the time he was found, Mr. Hirsch was free on bail with an ankle-bracelet monitor after being arraigned in June on murder and other charges in the killing of the delivery worker, Zhiwen Yan. He had pleaded not guilty and was facing up to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.
“Glen Hirsch and I had an excellent relationship and it saddens me that he took this route when we were very well prepared to fight this in the courtroom,” Mr. Aidala said. “He consistently maintained his innocence.”
A lawyer for Mr. Yan’s family, Jennifer Wu, said they were “in shock” after learning of the apparent suicide. She declined further comment.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Hirsch fatally shot Mr. Yan on April 30 amid a dispute stemming from Mr. Hirsch’s feeling that he had not gotten enough duck sauce with an order he placed several months before at Great Wall, the Chinese restaurant where Mr. Yan had worked for over two decades.
Mr. Yan was on his scooter at a stoplight when Mr. Hirsch approached him on foot from across the street and fired several shots at him before driving off in a car, prosecutors said. Mr. Yan was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
Mr. Hirsch had been involved in previous altercations with Great Wall employees, slashing one worker’s car tires and saying to employees on another occasion, “I have a gun,” prosecutors said. On one occasion, he pointed a gun at a worker who was shoveling snow outside the restaurant, prosecutors said.
Mr. Yan’s death shocked the middle-class section of Forest Hills where it occurred. Local leaders denounced the killing as a troubling example of the increase in violence against food delivery workers, many of them Asian American, during the coronavirus pandemic, and to the rise in bias attacks against Asian Americans more broadly.
Mr. Yan was a native of Fuzhou in southeastern China. Friends and co-workers described him as working seven days a week to support his wife and three young children and sometimes helping his wife with her job at a nearby laundromat when things were slow at the restaurant.
Chelsia Rose Marcius and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.