By Joy Bergmann
A 28-year-old man allegedly committed two seemingly random, unprovoked attacks against two women Thursday morning near 79th and Broadway, according to NYPD and a witness who talked to WSR.
At 9:20 a.m., the man allegedly came up from behind a 50-year-old woman walking her dog near the northwest corner of the intersection, before slamming his arms into her and punching her in the face, police said. She was transported to Mount Sinai Morningside [St. Lukes] Hospital in stable condition.
The man then fled northbound to 80th and Broadway, where at 9:22 a.m., he allegedly hit another woman in the face, police said. She was also transported to Mount Sinai; her age was not yet available, police said.
Police identified the man as Darrell Johnson and said they believe he is homeless. He is being charged with assault in both incidents, NYPD said.
Witness Melissa Doyle, who’s lived on West 79th Street for 30 years, saw the first attack as she was walking to the downtown #1 subway station at 79th and Broadway. “That corner is just a nightmare,” said Doyle.
As she was making her way across Broadway on the north side of 79th, Doyle saw the man allegedly raise both arms high and then swing them violently down. He then ran up Broadway, with “dilated eyes” and a “gleeful” expression. “He looked like the Joker in Batman,” Doyle said.
Meanwhile, the victim was collapsed on the sidewalk, not moving, with her dog staying near, Doyle said. “There was blood everywhere, her face swole up like a balloon, like a mango was in there.”
Bystanders leaped to assist. A bus driver and others called 911; teachers from the nearby church brought ice packs to soothe the woman’s injuries, Doyle said. Eventually, the victim came to, but was very disoriented.
Doyle was also left feeling shook up. “I’ve never seen someone who was just minding their own business be so violently attacked…especially at 9 a.m. in broad daylight,” she said. “It’s terrifying.”
UPDATE 12/3/21: Following publication, we heard from a witness to the second attack, a man we’ll call Mike, who’s lived on the UWS for 18 years.
Mike was also headed to the subway when he saw the suspect running toward him. After stepping out of the way, Mike says he saw the suspect allegedly throw “a flying punch” at a woman who’d been standing at the coffee cart on the southwest corner of Broadway and 80th Street. “I heard the sickening sound of his hand hitting her head,” Mike told WSR. Then, silence. Then, wailing from the woman.
Mike pursued the suspect as he took off toward West End Avenue, calling 911 and taking pictures and video along the way. “I was yelling ‘stop that guy! Stop that guy!'” Mike says another local man also assisted in the chase. At one point, the suspect wheeled around and allegedly threatened Mike. Mike flagged down a passing patrol car and the arrest was made soon thereafter.
Mike returned to the coffee cart corner to let the victim know the suspect had been caught. “I told her, he’s been arrested. And she said, ‘it’s OK.’ But, it’s not OK,” says Mike.
According to the NYPD, Johnson has 14 prior arrests, mostly for assault and petit larceny. Mike is concerned that Johnson may be granted pre-trial release. “I’m looking around for this guy right now.”