The beating death of a New Yorker is being investigated as a possible hate crime, New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John McCarthy confirmed Wednesday. As CNN reports, Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, was pronounced dead Monday after suffering injuries in a beating at New York’s Union Square last week.
According to witnesses, the suspect, who has been identified as Martin Redrick, 40, yelled out, “I’m gonna punch out the first white guy I see,” before punching Babbitt in the face. Babbitt fell to the ground and hit his head hard on the pavement. Two other men who tried to help him were also attacked, police said.
Babbitt was transported to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was declared brain-dead and eventually died from his injuries, the New York Times reports.
Redrick, who also goes by the alias Lashawn Marten, appeared in court on Tuesday and was charged with three counts of assault. But the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is also investigating the case, which could result in a grand jury bringing a charge of murder or manslaughter, according to CNN.
"The murder or manslaughter charge is a charge that requires far more on the part of the prosecution to prove his intent to inflict that type of injury," Redrick's attorney, Michael Croce, said. "They must show intent to cause serious injury. ... It needs to be explored more as to whether they have enough evidence to prove intent to kill based on one punch."
As CNN notes, Redrick has a long rap sheet, which includes aggravated harassment, assault, trespassing and drug possession. In 1998, he was convicted for attempted assault after hitting someone in the head with a glass bottle. He was paroled in 2001.
Meanwhile, Babbitt was a beloved figure in his neighborhood. Robert Pizzimenti, Babbitt’s neighbor, told CNN he was a “lovable guy.”
"He was the kind of guy who always was doing favors for people. If you needed a ride to an appointment, you could call Jeff and he'd say, 'Yeah, I'll take you,'" Pizzimenti said.
According to the New York Times, Babbitt’s mother, Lucille, who is 94, was at his bedside when he was in the hospital.