NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police are looking through surveillance video trying to figure out who is responsible for tossing a shopping cart off a mall parking garage that seriously injured two men Monday night in the Bronx.
A prominent taxi drivers union head and at least one witness who spoke to 1010 WINS believe the incident has something to do with a turf war between illegal, non-licensed livery drivers and licensed drivers.
Police sources who spoke with CBS 2 also agree with that assessment.
Authorities said 52-year-old Lounceny Camara and his friend, 30-year-old Sagne Ibrahima, were standing on the ground floor of the parking garage outside Home Depot in the Gateway Center in Mott Haven when someone pushed a shopping cart off the third story.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports
Witnesses said the two men never saw the falling shopping cart and didn’t have time to jump out of the way. Both were seriously injured.
Camara was rushed to Lincoln Hospital in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery. Both men are expected to survive and are in stable condition.
“They tried to treat his head, he cannot talk right now,” the victim’s uncle, Mamadou Diaby, told CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown.
Camara’s wife and four children are holding a bedside vigil, praying for his recovery.
On Tuesday, Fatoumata Bah was sorting through the clothes her husband was wearing when he was hit — now torn to shreds by doctors who worked furiously to save his life. She said doctors believe her husband will recover eventually, but for now she is trying to reassure their four children.
“The doctors told me, ‘Don’t cry, everything will be OK,’” Bah said.
It is unclear if the attack was random. CBS 2 reports police are investigating reports that the victims got into some type of altercation with several men prior to the incident.
Fernando Mateo, spokesman for the Federation of Taxi Drivers, said the incident stems from a rivalry between legal and illegal livery drivers.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria With Mateo
“The illegal drivers have basically taken over this shopping center, and the legal drivers who were awarded this contract are not able to keep the order,” Mateo told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
He contended the rivalry has been brewing since the Gateway Shopping Center opened. It’s alleged two legal drivers threw the cart.
In fact, a witness who spoke with D’Auria said the altercation began when an unlicensed driver tried to undercut a fare offered by a licensed driver to a potential customer by $5.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria Speaks With A Witness
Anthony Clifton said the drivers argued back and forth and at some point after that, he said he saw a man push the shopping cart off, hitting two drivers who were allegedly illegal.
“He grabs a shopping cart and he goes to the far side, where the entrance to Home Depot, and when then two guys stepped out, he threw the shopping cart and it him in the head — there was a lot of blood everywhere,” Clifton said.
Mateo and the Taxi and Limousine Commission said they have tried to get the mall to set up a TLC taxi stand, but the mall has refused. In a statement, the company that runs the mall, Related Companies, said the following:
“As a service to our customers.. we currently have an agreement with a local dispatching service, Diplo, to staff the private areas of the development including the garage. We are working closely with the local authorities in regard to the unfortunate incident.”
The disturbing incident is strikingly similar to what happened in October when officials said two then-12-year-old boys pushed a shopping cart off the roof of a parking deck outside an East Harlem Target store.
It hit 47-year-old Marion Hedges, a mother who had come to the store to buy Halloween candy for needy children. She was left brain-damaged and still faces months of rehabilitation.
Both boys in that case pleaded guilty to assault.
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