Sixty-two-year-old Leopold Schwartz, who was assaulted by a taxi driver on a Brooklyn street on Sunday in what has been dubbed a likely hate crime, has recounted the frightening moments of his assault by Farrukh Afzal.
The attack took place at about 7:30 a.m. in the Borough Park neighborhood. Schwartz, a Hasidic Jew, was on his way to morning services and was standing at an intersection, when Afzal, a cab driver, stopped his car suddenly, rushed at him and began to beat him.
“He came out from the car. I couldn’t explain to you how angry he was. He was screaming the whole time,” Schwartz recounted in interviews with CBS New York and ABC7 Eyewitness News.
“I tried to protect myself, I tried to run away. And I fell and then he come again on me,” he said. “Started to punch me. I screamed ‘What do you want from me?’ ‘Help me!’ I screamed ‘Please!’”
He added: “I’m telling you, if he had a knife he would stab me right on the [spot]. No doubt.”
Schwartz managed to get away when another man approached the pair and Afzal turned to attack the newcomer. Afzal was then restrained at the scene by passers-by, while police were called.
“I went to him when he was handcuffed and I asked him: ‘Tell me, what did I do to you that you thought to murder me? Tell me!’ He didn’t answer back.”
It is not yet clear why exactly Afzal, 37, attacked Schwartz. Police have charged him with a hate crime, but have also said he may have mistaken Schwartz for a different man. He has been arrested numerous times in the past.
Following his arrest, Afzal was fired from the cab company he worked for.
JTA contributed to this report.