NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police are trying to find the suspect in an assault that may have been fueled by hate.
The victim is out of the hospital and recovering at home. His family tells CBS2’s Ali Bauman the beloved father and grandfather was exercising on the fields at a Crown Heights park like he does every week when he was blindsided by a man yielding a very large rock.
Investigators say the suspect hit the 63-year-old man with a paving stone Tuesday morning inside Lincoln Terrace Park.
“He certainly feared for his life,” Benny Friedman, the victim’s son-in-law, said.
Friedman says his father-in-law, Avraham Gopin, was going for his usual jog around the ball fields around 7:30 a.m. when suddenly a stranger came towards him and yelled an anti-Semitic slur.
“From the yelling, he didn’t respond, but from the moment the boulder flew, he said he went into self-defense mode. He really thought that the man was… He meant business,” Friedman said.
Friedman says the suspect punched his father-in-law in the face and then hit him over the head with a massive stone.
“It was clear to him that the man was trying to kill him. Those were his words. The man was out for blood, that’s for sure,” he said.
“He was bleeding all over, missing two front teeth and he was transported by ambulance to Maimonides Hospital,” Councilman Chaim Deutsch said.
Gopin is a father of 10 and a grandfather. He has lived in Crown Heights for 40 years.
“He loves his family. He loves his community. He loves the neighborhood,” Friedman said. “Unfortunately, these events are becoming more and more prevalent.”
“To just walk into a park to enjoy themselves and leaving with a stretcher, and that is totally, totally unacceptable,” Deutsch said.
According to the NYPD, as of this week, there have been 145 anti-Semitic hate crime complaints in New York City so far this year. That’s up from 88 complaints in the same time last year.
“We are in a crisis here in New York City,” Deutsch said. “We need to do more to prevent such incidents from happening, and we need to work together as communities.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams both condemned the attack on Twitter and urged anyone with information to call police.
The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating this despicable act of violence, and we will find the attacker.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 27, 2019
As for the victim, his family is grateful he made it out of the park alive.
“There’s no question that things could have [been] far worse than they are right now,” Friedman said. “I believe he’s going to continue living just the way he was.”
The victim’s family says in addition to knocking out his two front teeth, the victim also has a broken nose and needed several stitches to his head. The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $5,000 for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.