NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The family of the Uber driver who died after being attacked with a hockey stick spoke out Monday night for the first time after his death.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported exclusively, investigators said it started outside Chelsea Piers early Sunday, when a suspect hit his hockey stick against an Uber driver’s car while he was stopped at a red light.
The driver got out to look at the damage, and they started fighting, investigators said. And when driver Randolph Tolk, 68, got back in his car, it was for the last time.
On Monday night, Tolk’s family told Bauman that with one swing, their whole world changed.
Kohji Kosugi, 39, was charged with manslaughter on allegations that he bludgeoned Tolk with the hockey stick during the fight. Bail for Kosugi was set at $500,000 in court Monday, as Kosugi kept his head low before the judge.
Investigator said Kosugi ran away, but Tolk got back in his car and made it about 10 blocks down the West Side Highway to Horatio Street – before he crashed into a road divider and died.
“We’re crushed. It’s a huge blow to the family — huge blow,” said Tolk’s nephew, Michael. “We’re still in shock and still processing it all.”
The late driver’s nephew said Tolk was the very definition of humble and hardworking, collecting fares to support their growing family.
“His smile was everything — he lit up a room,” Michael said. “He was a devoted father. He was an amazing grandfather to three new grandchildren.”
And Michael even said his uncle even made it a point to stay in safe neighborhoods, because he knew the risks of the job.
“He did a lot of high accounts,” Michael said. “He did a lot of — some famous people he drove.”
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office has not yet determined the cause of Tolk’s death. In court Monday, the defense attorney David Jeffries argued that Tolk initiated the fight, and since he was able to drive afterward, he was not directly killed by Kosugi’s strike to his skull.
“Unfortunately, the driver played a very large and outsized role in how things got to the place they got to,” Jeffries said. “The driver was the initial aggressor and that Mr. Kosugi reacted in what could be considered a reasonable fashion.”
Tolk’s family simply said if the 68-year-old had not been hit with a hockey stick. He would be alive today. They vowed to be at every court appearance.
“We will stand behind the NYPD and get justice for this absolutely. He will get justice,” Michael said. “I want him to suffer like my uncle did. That’s what I want.”
Kosugi’s lawyer told the judge he is an educated doctor with no prior criminal record. Kosugi is due back in court later this month.