Syracuse Police have arrested a local teenager on charges of assault in the second degree after the weekend attack on a 70-year-old man outside a 7-Eleven store in the city's Valley section. YNN's Bill Carey says the case struck a chord among the public and anger among some investigators who are detailing what they believe happened.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse's Police Chief tries to keep his composure during news conferences, but it was difficult in the case of a weekend attack that left Jim Gifford, 70, in critical condition.
The chief occasionally stops at the 7-Eleven store on Valley Drive where the attack took place and had often seen Gifford.
"He was a gentle soul that didn't bother anyone. And he certainly didn't deserve to be treated like this," said Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler.
The chief found himself alongside the mayor Monday, reporting progress in the investigation. An 18-year-old, Romeo Williams of Chemung Street, has now been arrested in the case.
Fowler says the suspect and victim had both been in the store early Saturday. Gifford had left on his way home and Williams had followed the man outside. The chief says Williams suddenly lunged at the victim, striking him in the head and knocking him to the ground, unconscious.
What angered Fowler most was store camera video he says shows Williams re-entering the 7-11 and "celebrating" the attack.
"I'm standing at this podium and I'm required to be professional. But stuff like this really challenges my professionalism at this time. Yeah, he was celebrating. That's exactly how I would describe his behavior," Fowler said.
And the attack didn't end there.
Fowler continued, "Romeo Williams then walks back outside the store to where Mr. Gifford was still laying on the ground, still unconscious and proceeded to repeatedly kick and strike him again about the face and head area, until some of his friends pulled him off and literally pulled him off of Mr. Gifford. This is not the knockout game. You want to know what this is? This is a random, viscous, unprovoked attack on an elderly member of our society. That's exactly what this is. This is not a game. This is a violent attack."
Neighbors living near the store had rallied Sunday in a show of outage over the attack. The city's mayor sees hope in that response.
"The community is saying this is not Syracuse. This is not who we are. This is not what we represent. We won't stand for it," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.
This is not Williams' first run in with the law. Police say he's been arrested at least 14 times in the past. Three of those arrests involve felony charges. At least two of those felony charges involving what police term violent crime.
Williams, at his arraignment, pleaded not guilty to the assault charge. He was ordered held on $100,000 bail.
A grand jury is due to take up the case and more serious charges could be considered as the investigation continues.