I’ve spent 17 years reporting and writing about crime in the Big Apple, telling the stories of countless crime victims — and now, I’m one of them.
I was headed to my desk at One Police Plaza downtown on Tuesday when I was punched in the ribs out of the blue by a stranger with a criminal record.
Even though I did everything I could to help cops catch my attacker — shouting for help, taking pictures as he fled, flagging down an officer, reporting the crime, and helping police identify the suspect — my case is going nowhere, one of so many lost in the system’s inability to act on common sense.
So a dangerous assailant, who police sources told me has a long rap sheet, is still in the wind, while I and other potential victims are watching our backs.
“Everyone is at risk,” a Manhattan cop told me. “This guy … he’s just going to hit someone else.”
I got off the No. 2/3 subway at Chambers Street and decided to skip Starbucks and head right to “The Shack” — a cubbyhole inside police HQ in lower Manhattan where crime reporters work.
I was walking past the Unlimited Biking rental shop, where the sidewalk is usually chaotic with tourists who are renting bicycles to head over the nearby Brooklyn Bridge and commuters who are trying to get around them.
Trying to maneuver my way through the crowd, I was looking down and ahead when I suddenly felt a sharp pain and saw a fist pressed into my ribs on the left side.
The blow sent me staggering backward.
I glanced at the spot on my green dress where I was hit and was terrified.
I have written dozens of stories about people who said they thought they’d been punched when they were actually stabbed.
I was relieved there was no blood.
It was the first time I had ever been hit like that. It took the wind out of me and left me bent over gasping for air.
Nobody seemed to notice me howling in pain, and now in tears.
So I yelled.
“That man just hit me!” I shouted while pointing at my assaulter, who was moving away quickly down the sidewalk. “He hit me!”
Bike shop worker Paul Park of New Jersey started yelling at my attacker too.
“What are you doing? You homeless f–k!” he shouted at the man. “You just hit a lady!”
As Park, 34, yelled, I took as many photos as I could, hoping to help the police catch him before he did the same thing to someone else.
Park later told me he’d seen my attacker hanging around before.
“I know why he punched you,” Park said. “He was mad that people were in his way. I saw him coming. He was walking really fast.”
I didn’t know what to do next, but Park tried to wave down a cop car driving past. But the only suggestion from the school safety officer inside was that we call 911.
With my photographs and the ring of video cameras installed in the area after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, I knew the NYPD would figure out who he was.
I didn’t know that wouldn’t be enough for an arrest.
I walked the remaining three blocks to work and filed a police report, handing over my photos of the attacker.
Investigators were able to find video of him going into the same subway I had exited a short time earlier, and used the footage to get a positive hit on him with facial recognition technology, police sources said.
So when the detective on my case texted me to come in for a photo array, I thought, “I got this. I have pictures of the guy. I know what he looks like. I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
But seeing a person in the flesh, from a distance, when you are traumatized — and looking at a digital photograph of them from an unknown date on paper are very different things.
The detective ushered me into a small interview room in the 1st Precinct station on Ericsson Street in Tribeca and had a uniformed police officer come in to show me the photo array.
The cop didn’t know anything about my case. It’s what police call a “double-blind,” where the officer who knows the suspect’s identity leaves during the identification, so they can’t be accused of influencing the victim.
But when photos of six men were placed in front of me, I froze. I wasn’t positive. I told the officer I was “pretty sure” it was image No. 1.
My inability to positively identify my attacker on paper has stopped the case in its tracks.
Detectives would have to bring the case to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg without a positive witness identification, a police source said.
“They just don’t want to have to deal with the Manhattan DA’s office,” the source said.
This, even though they knew who my attacker was and know his record, which includes 12 prior arrests for more serious felony assaults, sources said.
He’s even on parole until 2025 for criminal possession of a weapon, and is a known emotionally disturbed person, who regularly asks people for cigarettes and money in the area, the sources said.
I’m not alone. While politicians point to the city’s drop in shootings and homicides, misdemeanor assaults like mine are up 2.8% in the 1st Precinct, where I was attacked. Citywide, there were 1,300 more people assaulted so far this year over the same period last year, for a 4.5% increase from 24,999 to 26,129.
I tried to find the video of what happened to me but stores in the area all said they had no cameras on the sidewalk.
I messaged the detective on my case the name of a building super who might have video, but I never heard back.
It’s scary to think the guy who hit me is still walking around.
Authorities told me if I see my attacker, I can call 911, and if the police get there on time, they’ll arrest him for my assault.
But I don’t think I’ll stick around if I see him again.
I tried to do the right thing and — so far — it hasn’t worked.