Kang Wong, an 84-year-old man who does not speak English, was arrested by police at an Upper West Side intersection for crossing a street against the light. Ordered to stand against a wall, Wong began walking away, apparently not understanding what the cop was saying.
“The cop tried to pull him back, and that’s when he began to struggle with the cop,” said Ian King, a Fordham University law student who watched the skirmish. “As soon as he pushed the cop, it was like cops started running in from everywhere.”
The arresting officer called for police backup, and several cops began beating Wong for “resisting arrest.”
Wong, bleeding and dazed, was taken initially to St. Luke’s Hospital before being transferred to the police station.
“Oh, great! Beating up on an 84-year-old man for jaywalking,” said Wong’s son, an attorney who did not want to identify himself.
Wong was later sent home with orders to appear for a court appearance. But his family says they are looking to sue police for the treatment.
“He was just walking across the street with other people, and they picked him out,” a son said. “How could they do that to an 84-year-old man?”
The entire scene played out in front of several news reporters, who were on scene to cover a pedestrian death nearby shortly before.
Aides to Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out that there were three other deaths in the area in recent weeks that may have been prevented with greater enforcement.
“We won’t sit by while lives are lost and families are torn apart,” said Phil Walzak, de Blasio’s spokesman. “These latest crashes underscore the urgent need to make our streets safer.”
De Blasio, who just last week said he was boosting traffic police staff by 50 percent as part of his “Vision Zero,” to reduce traffic deaths to zero, addressed the incident at an unrelated event Monday.
“Obviously I wish him a speedy recovery,” he said, adding that he did not have all the facts yet to make a judgment call on the incident.
“There is no larger policy in terms of jaywalking and ticketing,” de Blasio said, according to Politicker. “That’s not part of our plan. But it is something a local precinct commander can act on, if they perceive there to be a real danger.”
But the mayor said that there was a need to educate New Yorkers on the dangers of disobeying traffic laws.
“Look, we do need to do more education and we need to be sensitive to the fact that we do have a way of life and many of us who’ve been here know that. … There’s a lot more vehicles in this town than there used to be,” de Blasio said.
The Big Apple saw the lives of 286 New Yorkers snuffed out due to traffic accidents last year, compared to the much more heralded 333 homicides.