Police investigating attack on Hispanic straphanger

Police investigating attack on Hispanic straphanger
By Bill Parry

A Hispanic man was attacked aboard a Queens-bound No. 7 train Sunday in what police were investigating as a possible hate crime.

Police say the 43-year-old victim was on the train around 4 p.m. Sunday when he was confronted by the suspect, described as a black man in his 30s.

Erik Baard, founder and director of HaborLab in Long Island City, was riding across from the man and saw the assailant stroking his face with a hairbrush.

“It was if he was trying to calm himself down from an agitated state,” Baard said.

Within a minute the assailant was on top of the victim. Police say the assailant struck the victim three times with a closed fist, bruising the victim’s nose and bloodying his lip.

Baard said, “I saw the punches and heard him yell racial epithets, questioning his citizenship and claiming that the man wiped snot on him. I thought he might have a phobia because he kept talking about Mexican germs.”

Baard says he got in between the two and asked the assailant to ease back on the violence.

“I asked the victim if he wanted to move to another car, but he was too stunned. I noticed he teared up at the hate speech,” Baard said.

Police say the assailant motioned to other passengers that he had a weapon in his waistband.

“I saw an object, but it could have been the hairbrush for all I know,” Baard said.

The police version of events differs from Baard’s in one respect. The NYPD says the suspect fled at the Court Square subway station.

Baard said, “No, the assailant got off at Queensboro Plaza. I can tell you that emphatically. I live there.”

He also said he is helping with the investigation that is being conducted by the Hate Crimes Task Force, according to the police.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.