NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A violent gang has been targeting playgrounds and parks in New York City over the past few weeks. In one attack, a father was beaten right in front of his small children.
CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey spoke exclusively to that devastated dad.
“This was like a movie, man. This guy just came out of nowhere,” said “Juan,” the target of the attempted mugging.
He didn’t want his name or identity public out of concern for his safety. Juan was at a Washington Heights park in the middle of the day with his two 5-year-old children, and he was taking them to an ice cream truck.
“All of a sudden, I feel this yank,” he said.
He said someone was trying to pull the gold chain off of his neck.
“Every time I tried to get up, the guy would yank, yank me back and drag me back and back,” he said.
Because the chain didn’t break, Juan was dragged down the street as his horrified daughter and son watched helplessly.
“My kids just started crying — hysterical. Kids just started crying for their daddy,” he said.
The ordeal lasted about a minute.
“I just see myself on the floor fighting for my life. The guy is just choking me,” Juan said.
Finally the suspect let go and jumped into a waiting car.
“I was in shock. I have my two kids in my hands and all of a sudden I’m just on the floor, gasping for air because the guy would not let go,” he said. “I’m lucky I’m alive.”
Police believe Juan’s attackers are responsible for a half dozen muggings over the past few weeks on the streets and parks of Inwood and Washington Heights. Bats have been used to steal cash and valuables like iPhones.
The pattern has people like Amy Bergtold making changes.
“I take precautions now when I go out to the park, like I go out with a group of people,” she said.
Juan said he is done with wearing expensive jewelry, even the chain that’s been in his family for 20 years. He said neither of his kids can shake the awful image near the ice cream truck.
“I’m like this guy is going to kill me in front of so many people, in front of my two kids,” Juan said.
The gang is described as a group of Hispanic men between the ages of 16 and 22. Police are still looking for the suspects.