I screamed ‘What do you want from me?’: Hasidic victim describes Brooklyn attack

Leopold Schwartz says cab driver Farrukh Afzal assaulted him without provocation: ‘If he had a knife, he would stab me on the spot’

New York beating victim Leopold Schwartz. (YouTube screenshot)
New York beating victim Leopold Schwartz. (YouTube screenshot)

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

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