Homeless Woman Accused in Wood-Block Assault Is Back on the Street, Against Police Commander’s Wishes

Larissa Williams and her companion.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Last Saturday night, Larissa Williams, a homeless woman who often sleeps in the area around 79th Street and Broadway, was arrested for allegedly throwing a block of wood at her homeless companion, hitting a 71-year-old woman in the head instead. Williams was taken into custody within three hours, and charged with a Class D Violent Felony. The victim was taken to a hospital where three staples were required to close the laceration.

On Monday afternoon, Williams was back on the street, released from custody with an “unsecured appearance bond” issued by a judge, according to Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin, commander of the 20th Precinct.

Under an unsecured appearance bond, the accused person promises in writing to show up in court, but puts up no property or cash to guarantee it. The accused generally agrees to pay money if they fail to appear.

The Manhattan DA’s office, with the support of Malin, had requested $10,000 cash bail or a $20,000 bond, but the judge denied the requests, ordering Williams to appear in court this Friday.

The DA’s office declined to comment on “this open and pending case,” but provided the “record made at arraignment”:

The People stated the following, in substance, at the defendant’s 11/18/19 Criminal Court arraignment:

The defendant has 2 previous misdemeanor convictions within the last year, one of which was an Assault 3 conviction that was pled down from Assault 2.

Here, the defendant throws a wooden brick in the direction of an individual that she was in an argument with and strikes a 71-year-old passerby in the head. The complaining witness sustained a laceration on her head that required 3 staples.

The People are requesting $10,000 cash, or a $20,000 insurance company bond, or a $20,000 partially secured surety bond as the least restrictive alternative that will ensure the defendant’s reappearance to face this D violent felony charge.

“Williams has a couple of prior misdemeanors, one involving violence,” Malin told WSR in an email. “I get more complaints about her and [her companion] than anyone else in the precinct: the nonstop noise, disturbing behavior and quality-of-life nuisance they create.”

On Tuesday afternoon, when WSR spoke to Williams — in a doorway in the area —  she had been resting beneath a sleeping bag and blankets with her companion. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, when asked about the incident. When told the woman was recovering from her injuries she said “Good.” She nodded when asked if she plans to appear in court.

As for Larissa Williams’ homelessness, Deputy Inspector Malin said, “ There are plenty of outreach programs, and we’ve tried to connect her with them. Goddard Riverside has a case on her. But she always turns down services.”

NEWS | 54 comments | permalink
    1. Mrs. C. says:

      This is a travesty. These two (Larissa and her companion) drink, scream, and menace pedestrians 24×7. How they can be allowed to remain on the street — even after she has been arrested multiple times — is insane.

      • Joey says:

        Get used to it. It’s only going to get worse when the Criminal Justice Reform Act goes into effect Jan 1.
        We’re slipping back to the ‘80s and the lunatic legislators are facilitating the slide.

    2. Harriet F. says:

      One thing I don’t understand is….why is it not the responsibility of The Apthorp, on whose steps they are sleeping, to clear that area? Why isn’t the building not getting repeated violation/tickets every day for garbage (blankets, food garbage, and stuff) on the street. I understand that anyone is entitled to sit on those steps, but to store stuff there has to be a violation of some statute. If our building even leaves so much as an stray can after garbage pickup time, we get a violation from the Dept of Sanitation. Why does this not apply to stuff on those steps?

      • B.B. says:

        Private buildings are restricted by laws as to their responses to homeless or anyone else trespassing upon their property.

        They basically have only two responses; tell person or persons to move along; or call NYPD to have them removed for trespassing.

        If staff, residents or anyone else connected with Apthorp or any other building in city (or state for that matter) puts a finger on these people *they* are ones in trouble. Property owners and or person(s) doing so can face criminal and or civil legal action.

        • Enough Is Enough says:

          Very true! Have spoken with a couple of the doormen at the Apthorp about her “companion” Karl. He has been trespassing on the steps of the Apthorp for years. They receive complaints from residents all the time and call the police whenever they do. The police usually remove him in the morning and he is back on the steps before the day is out.

    3. tom burnett says:

      I agree with Mrs. C. Judges and elected officials are overly sympathetic to offenders and have ignored the concerns of law-abiding citizens whose QOL has declined sharply. The only solution is to speak up. Make the elected officials aware of your concerns and support the NYPD’s efforts to make life better for the neighborhood. We also encourage residents to attend their local Precinct Community Council meetings to discuss these issues with the Precinct leadership

      Tom Burnett, President of the 24 Precinct Community Council

      • B.B. says:

        Criminal court judges in NYC are appointed (or reappointed) by the mayor.

        https://www1.nyc.gov/site/acj/appointed/criminal-court.page

        Judges of course are supposed to be independent, in reality many look over their shoulder and do take cues from Gracie Mansion if they want to be reappointed.

        Currently all sitting criminal court judges know the drill; mayor, city council, Albany and others want less persons sent to Rikers and or otherwise held in custody.

        Thus unless a suspect is accused of a truly heinous crime or crimes (like the man who beat several homeless to death with a metal pipe), you can forget about courts imposing bail or any other restrictions. Suspects are arrested, arrianged, then sent home with a promise that they will stay out of trouble and return for next court date.

        If you think things are bad now; wait until bail reform law kicks in a few months from now.

    4. Emily Altschul says:

      This is the beginning of an idiotic version of “Criminal Justice Reform” in NYC. We are already seeing the uptick in violent crimes in our neighborhood. Requiring no bail, referred to here as “unsecured appearance bond”, is going to bring our city back to the violence of the 70’s and 80’s. I’m afraid people have forgotten how bad it was, and how long it took law enforcement to install Compstat, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CompStat or precision policing.
      Allowing violent criminals out on “unsecured appearance bonds” is going to jeopardize our safety and will run counter to the successes of Compstat. It’s a shame and it is scary.

    5. katherine says:

      If her companion is the guy who “occupies” the median at 79th and Broadway, I have never seen him do or threaten anything violent. On the other hand, I’ve seen her acting belligerent before. Just want to point out there’s a difference between being weird/unsightly (her companion) and being dangerous.

      • Lucille says:

        Disagree – this guy chased me as I pushed my toddler in a stroller down Broadway. I called the police a few weeks prior when I saw him charge and verbally assault an older man who was crossing Broadway with his granddaughter. They ran away in fear. He is often calm but not always and is aggressive. I am fully aware that the lack of readily available mental health services is the root cause but doesn’t resolve the security issues.

        • JS says:

          Agreed- he is the only person in the neighborhood that I actually fear. I can no longer walk on 79th street because my daughter is terrified of him- he has often spoken directly to her.

          • Stephanie says:

            I don’t agree at all that he is scarey. I talk to him every day and I think having regular conversation is really good for him. I know he is mentally disturbed but he’s also really nice. Don’t be scared.

            • Mr. S. says:

              I live on 79th Street and walk past this man with my 3 year old daughter all the time. He calls out to my daughter every time we walk by, calling her “beautiful” and says “I love you” while drinking 40oz beers at 8am. This is harassment!! It’s so disturbing that nothing can be done.

      • Enough Is Enough says:

        According to Merriam-Webster:
        Belligerent
        1: inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness.

        Pretty sure you don’t want your kids near someone as belligerent as these two.

        Have personally witnessed their aggressive panhandling and threats of violence. As well as them both openly drink and urinating in front of the police on patrol with zero repercussions.

        Guess when our judicial system let’s these types of dangerous people back into society within days of a violent felony, why would cops even bother?

        .

      • Andrew says:

        if it’s who i think it is– twenty something, black man, lanky, about 6’1″ – ALL he does is engage in threatening behavior, screaming in the street, stamping his feet…. he’s usually/always drunk. he once followed my wife and screamed “think you’re safe”… as she ran off.

        not sure how he gets away with just screaming drunk in public, all day every day.

        • B.B. says:

          We’ve been through this several threads previously on WSR.

          Basically post 1960’s mental health reform laws and or whatever you can no longer put people away for “acting strangely”. More to the point mentally ill have the same USC rights as anyone else.

          Courts or LE now require very strong evidence to deprive someone of those constitutionally protected rights of liberty and so forth.

          Long story short someone loose on streets giggling at the walls, holding conversations with several unseen persons, and rest of it no longer can get them put away. Absent a clear strong danger to themselves or others, there is little LE or anyone else can do.

          It varies by state, but there are two temporary mental health involuntary commitment; 72 hour and three month.

          http://behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2014/03/20/involuntary-mental-health-commitments/

          In many cases doctors/hospitals are loathe to go after either for fear they will be sued by patient (or family members) for malpractice (depriving a person of their liberty).

          Even when such requests are made judges today are loathe to sign commitment papers even for temporary holds. Again absent clear and compelling evidence someone is a threat to themselves or others, it just doesn’t happen.

          Only way mentally ill today end up in hospital or confined for long periods is usually after they have committed a crime, and or accused of same.

          While awaiting trial mentally ill like the rest were often kept in custody because they couldn’t make bail. Those deemed not guilty due to mental illness were sent to hospitals for criminally insane. Persons deemed in their right mind at time of committing a crime if found guilty are sent away to prison.

          Ironically it is while in state (criminal) custody these people receive the mental healthcare needed.

          Fifty years after federal and state mental health laws launched deinstitutionalization, state or local criminal lock-ups have now become de facto mental hospitals.

      • Stephanie says:

        I am a neighborhood friend of Carl, the guy on the 79th Street median. Carl’s a very nice guy and although he’s pretty nutty sometimes, he’s kind and thoughtful to all. Larissa stayed there on the median with him all summer long, and you’re right, she’s a lot more aggressive and troubled than Carl. When I asked Carl a few weeks ago what had happened to her, he said she “moved on” and spoke more about getting his music together.

        • james says:

          i’m typically very sympathetic to the neighborhood homeless. i know several of them personally and always take the time to say hello. that said, i don’t see Karl as harmless. i’ve witnessed him screaming at children, staring people down, and otherwise just acting like he’s about to hurt someone. i watched him and Larissa brawl in the middle of Amsterdam and 77th – first fighting with each other until the police came and detained them both. i was at the playground there with my three year old. understandably, my wife doesn’t feel comfortable passing him and actively avoids “his” intersection.

        • Lucille says:

          Dude he is NOT kind and thoughtful to all! Right in front of me he shouted at an elderly man that he would “f@!&ing kill him if he didn’t keep walking” – the man didn’t make so much as eye contact with him, and was using a walker. We didn’t have the light to cross so cowered in fear of physical violence. I understand Karl needs help but to present him as our neighborhood Mr Rogers is absurd.

      • JJM says:

        I also disagree. He has been threatening with my children — he has chased them. To the extent they now ask not to cross the street at 79th. He has chased and harassed them enough that they are anxious about the intersection. He’s never bothered me if I’m without my children.

      • Stephanie Jutt says:

        Just want to agree with this – Karl is always nice and says hello to me, sometimes I give him money and chat for a little while, and I think more than anything he tries to help Larissa Williams, who is even more off her rocker than he is. I don’t know why she refuses help, but he’s really not a problem.

    6. NN says:

      I’m disheartened by the tone of some of the comments here. I’m so sorry for the woman who got hit in the head, but some of you sound like you want a struggling human being put into jail because she annoys you by being loud on the street when you walk past her between your warm apartment and the nearest Starbucks. There’s more physical danger walking past kids throwing frisbees in the park than from a homeless person sleeping on a stoop.

      Ms Williams sounds like she’s in a pretty awful situation and if she’s turning down services, that sounds to me like there’s a problem with the services or the way they are being offered to her. And there may not be a good solution for that problem that even well-meaning people can find, but at least we can be sorry for that, instead of allowing ourselves to resent her own pain and difficulties being on display before us.

      • Spence says:

        I would think that a judge would mandate her to receive certain services instead of prosecuting her. This is often done in cases where the accused has a condition needing treatment, i.e. substance use and mental illness.

      • Pete says:

        I’d rather get hit on the head with a Frisbee than a wooden brick.

        i get your sympathy, but it seems this woman has had numerous chances and she’s still a nuisance… the problem is, what will it take? another wooden brick, or something worse to strike someone, maybe a child, and kill them?

      • Debbie says:

        There is nothing wrong with the services being offered her! She is mentally ill and incapable of making proper decisions to increase the quality of her life and of those around her. The main “service” she needs is probably psychiatric, including medication. Everybody’s hands are tied and the situation will probably escalate until someone, including herself, will be more seriously injured. She should be moved to in front of the Mayor’s residence where the 1st lady of NYC can take care of her!

      • Lucille says:

        NN join me for a walk past these folks with my two toddlers – or just stay and watch them for 30 mins for a couple of days – and then let’s talk.

      • james says:

        you missed the part where she assaulted someone, yeah?

      • Alex says:

        And hence the term “bleeding heart liberal.”

        Your thoughts and mentality are what will fuel a Trump in win in 2020. People are sick and tired of this philosophy that allows and rationalizes criminality. You only yourself to credit when Trump is re-elected.

    7. Libby says:

      What is the name of the judge that released her from custody with an “unsecured appearance bond”?

    8. Pedestrian says:

      When the state mental facilities were closed residents were promised that patients would not be dumped on the street putting others at risk. But who cares about victims or the safety of our streets. Being mentally ill may provide an excuse for certain criminal behavior but it doesn’t make the injuries any less life changing. Discussion of mentally ill homeless or criminal behavior on our streets must include a serious strategy to protect residents from these perpetrators. Rhetoric doesn’t protect anyone!

    9. HelenD says:

      Ridiculous! No one would intentionally walk amidst a group of teens throwing a frisbee.

      Larissa Williams, “threw a block of wood at her homeless companion, hitting a 71-year-old woman in the head instead.”

      Are we all supposed to walk down the street anticipating that we may be hit in the head with a block of wood?!

      This isn’t the first time someone here has tried to blame neighbors for wanting a decent quality of life to be anti-homeless.

      If a non-homeless person was arrested this many times do you think they’d still be out on the street harming other people?

      This is beyond frustrating!

    10. Tom says:

      “People get the government they deserve”

      Nice work, Upper West Siders! Stay woke.

    11. Cyrus says:

      Perhaps if the victim presses charges against Williams, then that will help start the process to get her off the street.

    12. Mars D says:

      Shame on WSR for giving the location of where this women currently sleeps. What recourse does Ms. Williams have to protect herself from people getting even? Let the courts handle the judgement, not the residents of the UWS.

      • Debbie says:

        We all know her and where she lives! She’s been harassing us all for a very long time! Good for the WSR for finally publicly addressing this problem!

      • Ted says:

        Well, actually a lot of recourse that she chooses not to utilize. The article states quite clearly that many service providers have offered her assistance and she has declined. While this individual clearly meets any reasonable definition of unwell, society does not owe her carte blanche to behave badly and intimidate/assault people.

        • B.B. says:

          By whose definition of “unwell” are you using?

          Unless you are a physician qualfied and licensed to make such a statement, *and* have examined the person in question, then you cannot say.

          Again as have said, laws are quite clear; absent a clear and serious treat to themselves or others you simply cannot put people away against their will.

          In this instance it appears this woman was fighting with bf and threw that block of wood. Sadly it hit an elderly woman, but obviously judge doesn’t believe her to be insane.

          People call 911 all the time to “move” mentally ill people off sidewalks (usually in front of posh buildings), and things don’t always go as planned.

          Myself have witnessed a few occasions where EMS asked, pleaded, cajoled, warned, and otherwise tried to get a disheveled and filthy homeless mentally ill man to get into ambulance.

          Man responded to the two lady EMS techs that he wasn’t unwell, and was quite happy were he was. They continued and he became agitated and told them he was well aware of his rights, and let out a torrent of verbal abuse. Ending with if they laid a hand on him he would sue themselves, the hospital and anything else involved.

          EMS ladies gave up, and packed up leaving the man right where he was; this much to the annoyance of doorman and workers of building who probably were the ones who summoned LE.

          Am sorry for being long winded, but it must be said again; this isn’t the 1850’s or even 1950’s, you cannot simply put people away because they do things that bother you.

          • Marc says:

            Yeah, she and he are clearly not a “clear and serious t(h)reat” to others. Throwing blunt objects in the middle of crowded street is just a little bit of “bother” we shouldn’t overreact to. Today, it’s a piece of wood, tomorrow – a rock breaking someone’s face, next thing you know they’re slicing each other (and whoever’s in the way) with a broken beer bottle. Today – an elderly woman hit, tomorrow – a pregnant one gets shoved mid-fight into the path of semi. Imagine that scene.

            But “sadly”, we shouldn’t do anything about this until we get a panel of internationally renowned clinicians to opine that these guys are “unwell.”

            One question: are you serious?!

    13. Robbie says:

      I consider myself very sympathetic and help whenever I can but can someone logically explain to me why we should be more sympathetic to people attacking and threatening people all day than innocent people just trying to walk down the street. This woman is very likely to attack or injure someone while out on the street.

    14. BJK says:

      Why does this news report fail to name the judge who did not require cash bail? We have a right to know which of our government officials should be relieved of their governmental responsibilities. I would argue that that is the most salient fact in this story (since we knew about the incident itself already from prior reports) yet this fact is noticeably absent from this news report.

      • Not ok to hit a 71yr old woman in the head says:

        I would suggest if you really want to know, call the Brooklyn county clerk’s office tomorrow and ask for the Judge who rendered the opinion. It should be public record and available to find. It’s not being released publicly because of the backlash

    15. Juan says:

      I would like to thank Deputy Inspector Malin for his excellent work. He has worked hard to be very accessible to the community. This article demonstrates that he is trying to do an impossible task. His heart seems to be in the right place but he is fighting a losing battle.

      Keep up the good work and hopefully some day we will have leadership in this city that believes in the age old saying, “do the crime, do the time” and will allow him to do his job.

    16. Leon says:

      Sleeping on the doorstep of a building should not be an option. I feel bad for all homeless people and try not to generalize about them. But you can’t just establish residency anywhere you want. I really don’t know what the optimal solution here is but this is ridiculous.

      She has clearly committed a crime and should pay the price. You can’t go around throwing things at people. There is no excuse for this. If you are not mentally able to understand that this is not proper behavior, you do not belong in society. You should be receiving treatment in a place where you are not putting other people at risk.

    17. Sherman says:

      It’s unfortunate that people are spending a lot of money to live in this building only to have violent homeless people camping in front of it.

    18. dc says:

      nycourts.gov provides details about the case, FYI

    19. AC says:

      You know these two, Carl and Larissa, are trouble when other neighborhood panhandlers are afraid of them.

      Carl is okay when he’s on his meds. I have seen him having intellectual conversations. But when he’s off his meds or combines them with liquor, forget it! He’s not only a menace, but also a possible threat.

      Larissa, she off her rocker.

      The victim should sue the City of NY for negligence, as even deputy Inspector Malin has stated, the NYPD is well aware of their erratic and threaten behavior. Yet the City of New York has done nothing to keep its residents safe.

    20. LKLA says:

      Thank you Bill De Blasio.

    21. Adam says:

      stop voting democrat

    22. Kate says:

      I’m voting Republican from now on. Maybe they can stop coddling these dangerous criminals.

      Good job, Democrats!

      • scott says:

        Agreed! We have all watched the city slowly deteriorate over the past five years while the homeless population soars. We get the government that we elect.

    23. Marianne says:

      I don’t deny that the mentally sick homeless need help, but what about the victims? Whenever there is a crime committed we never hear if the victim needs help. The focus is on the perpetrator, incredibly some people here come to their defense!!! In this case, does the 71-year-old female victim have health insurance? Does she have aftercare – therapy for PTSD which she surely has. The poor woman!!!

    24. O’Connor says:

      I called the Manhattan court office this afternoon. According to them and the documentation from the court, the Judge actually issued bail in the amount of a $20k credit card payment or a $20k bond. This was read from the court files. It is extremely bizarre that we have different stories here and if she had bail, then it’s very unclear how she ended back on the street.

      WSR – can you please look into this deeper? Something isn’t adding up.

    25. SF says:

      This is beyond absurd. We see them every day. They are there every day harassing pedestrians, and it was only a matter of time before bad things started to happen. The police and the courts need to do more to keep our area safe. The city needs to do better.