NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The latest unsavory incident involving a costumed character in Times Square is strengthening calls for the city to regulate Spider-Man, Elmo and pals.
On Saturday night, a man dressed as Spider-Man wound up in cuffs after he allegedly assaulted a police officer following a dispute with a woman.
According to authorities, the police officer was standing at his post at West 42 Street and Broadway when he witnessed a male — identified as Junior Bishop, 25, of Brooklyn — dressed as Spider-Man take a photo with a man and woman.
The woman then tried to give Bishop a $1 tip, which he allegedly refused. Police said the crime-fighting hero then put out his hand and told the woman he only accepts $5, $10 or $20.
Overhearing the exchange, the police officer told the woman she can donate whatever she wants. At which point, Bishop told the officer to “mind your own (expletive) business,” police said.
Authorities said Bishop continued to yell, curse and argue after the officer told him that while he may accept tips, he was not allowed to request money.
After the officer requested identification and Bishop could not provide any, he was placed under arrest, police said.
While the officer attempted to arrest Bishop, the costumed man allegedly broke free and punched the officer in the face, resulting in swelling around the cop’s eye and a laceration to his face.
Additional police officers arrived on the scene and were able to take Bishop into police custody.
Bishop is charged with assaulting a police officer in the second degree, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and misconduct.
Bishop’s mother answered the phone at their Brooklyn home late Saturday and said he was not home. She said she was not aware of his work in Times Square or his arrest. Information on Bishop’s lawyer was not available.
The officer, who has been on the job for a year and a half, was taken to NYU Langone Medical Center, where he was treated and released, police said.
“This place is a zoo,” one man in Times Square on Saturday night told CBS 2.
“You just don’t know who’s behind the costume,” another woman said.
One witness offered a different account and said that the officer was first to place his arm around Bishop’s neck, and that Bishop acted in self defense.
“Look what happened in Staten Island. Somebody get choked you know what I mean? He can get choked for that. That’s why he was ‘let me get out of it’ in a situation like that you need to get out,” Jose Martinez told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
The 20-year-old woman behind a Mickey Mouse Mask said that she was working with Bishop when he got into a fight with police.
“He was trying to defend himself. We can’t defend ourselves out here against the cops,” she said.
Police say the officer intervened when he heard Bishop decline a couple’s offer of a $1 tip.
“Spider-Man didn’t charge at all. He said ‘give something me and Mickey can share’ the cop said ‘No give them nothing,'” the young woman said.
She also claimed that the officer attacked Bishop.
“He put his hands behind his back, he moved a little, then the officer, I think his name is Officer Molina, came, put his right arm around his neck, and tried to bodyslam him on the floor. Spidey then got out of it and he started retaliating against the cops,” she said.
The incident comes on the heels of several other arrests of characters in Times Square.
In late June, a different Spider-Man was arrested for allegedly groping a New Yorker. In that same week, a completely different Spider-Man was convicted of harassing a woman in a Times Square spat.
There also have been recent reports of a brawl between two Statues of Liberty, and a man dressed as Woody from “Toy Story” allegedly groping women. And in April 2013, a man dressed as the Cookie Monster was charged with endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly shoving a 2 1/2-year-old boy.
Some business and city leaders have been calling for the costumed characters to be regulated.
“Quirky is fine. Creepy is not,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, told CBS 2.
“Our feeling is that there are honest folks who are out just trying to earn a living. But there’s also some folks who are taking advantage of people.”
The alliance released a statement calling for the implementation of rigorous licensing requirements.
“This incident is yet another reminder that many — though certainly not all — of these so-called friendly characters are actually violent and aggressive and have troubling criminal records. A rigorous licensing scheme would address this and must be implemented,” the statement said.
Some City Council members have proposed legislation to license the people behind the masks.
The bill under City Council consideration would require licenses and background checks for costumed performers but copyright issues have held up final approval, since most of the costume wearers are not authorized by the characters’ owners.
Earlier this month, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he will “pursue an effort to regulate the activity.”
Some of the costumed workers insist Bishop’s actions are his own.
“We’re not bad, you know,” a woman inside a Minnie Mouse costume told CBS 2.
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