NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD on Friday was investigating a possible hate crime in Brooklyn that was caught on camera.
As CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported, the cameras were rolling as two teens targeted a Jewish man working on a forklift. But after the assault, the victim fought back.
On Friday afternoon, Rafael Spritzer was back at work at his family warehouse in Crown Heights, and he was still shaken up.
He said he noticed the suspects were scouting him out as he worked outside of the warehouse on Brooklyn Avenue around 5:15 p.m. Thursday.
“I sort of sensed that something was amiss; something was up to no good,” Spritzer said.
Video shows the two teens approaching Spritzer while he was on the forklift. Spritzer said one of them asked what time it was, so he looked at his cellphone and gave an answer.
At that point, the other teen suddenly punched Spritzer in the face, and then they took off.
“Came out of nowhere,” Spritzer said. “He didn’t ask me for any money; didn’t try to grab my phone while I was holding it.”
Spritzer’s father, Yankel Spritzer, said the damage could have been a lot worse.
“If my son wasn’t physically fit like he is, that punch could have knocked out a few teeth,” he said. “I mean, look at the physical force that this guy used to throw that punch in that video – I mean, this guy was looking to hurt somebody.”
But Rafael Spritzer immediately jumped out of the forklift and ran after the assailants. He grabbed one of the teens and held him down until police arrived, while the suspect accused of punching him got away and nearly got hit by a van.
When asked why he went after the teens, Spritzer said: “I don’t know – it was just my instinct. You get punched, you go after the guy who did it to you. No one should get away with that.”
Police said they arrested Tarik Michael, 17, and charged him with assault. CBS2 went to Michael’s listed address, but no one answered the door.
The other suspect had not been caught as of late Friday afternoon, and police had no leads on him.
When asked why he thought he was targeted, Spritzer said, “I hate to say it, but I like to think because of what I look like.”
And after the attack, Spritzer was worried for the safety of the local Jewish community – especially his son.
“I can stand up and I can defend myself, but my 10-year-old – you know, it gets you thinking in the morning if I should allow him to go out or not,” he said.
Spritzer said he is now extra-aware of who is walking by, and he needs police to find out whoever took a swing at hm.
“You always try to put eyes in the back of your head to see who’s behind you,” he said.
Spritzer said he has been working at the warehouse for 12 years, and nothing similar had ever happened before.