NEW YORK >>An unemployed man in a business suit abruptly pulled out a hammer and attacked a Spanish tourist eating lunch with his girlfriend in the park around City Hall, bashing him in the head repeatedly and knocking him to the ground before bystanders wrestled the hammer away, prosecutors said Tuesday as he was charged with attempted murder.
John Yoos, wearing his navy blue suit and his head shaved, said nothing at his arraignment as a prosecutor described a bizarre, unprovoked attack on a man who had no connection to Yoos beyond sitting next to him on a park bench.
Yoos has lived in New York for two years, his lawyer, Alyssa Gamliel, told a judge. He had been arrested once before, in Hawaii in 2008, in a case that involved failing to pay a fine, she said. The details of that case were unclear.
“This is a completely random act of brutal violence on a total stranger,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Allison Altmann said.
Despite the strange allegations, prosecutors and Yoos’ lawyer aren’t seeking a psychiatric evaluation for him. He’s being held without bail and is due back in court on Friday.
The tourist, Hugo Alejandre, was on the bench in City Hall Park on Monday when Yoos stood up and started hitting him in the head with the hammer’s claw end, Altmann said.
“He did it over and over again,” she said.
After Alejandre fell to the ground, Yoos whacked him in the back and hit his girlfriend when she tried to help him, the prosecutor said. Bystanders intervened and pried the hammer away, she said.
Alejandre, of Barcelona, was treated at a hospital for a spinal fracture, deep gashes to his face and cuts on his chest and arms. He declined to comment as he left the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday.
Yoos, 43, was arrested nearby, and police collected the bloody hammer plus a 5-inch-long steak knife from his jacket, prosecutors said.
“I hit him approximately 10 times with the hammer, at least once in the head,” Yoos told an officer, according to a court complaint.
The New York allegations more likely should reflect an assault charge, rather than an attempted murder charge, Gamliel said, noting that Alejandre was released from a hospital within a day.
She said she wasn’t planning to seek a psychiatric exam for her client, at least for now.
According to court records, a Honolulu police officer handed Yoos a citation on Jan. 30, 2008, for crossing an intersection after the “Don’t Walk” signal had already begun flashing. Rather than go to court to challenge the citation, Yoos sent the court a written statement.ilHonolulu District Judge Leslie Hayashi imposed a $100 fine and $30 administrative fee on April 2, 2008. The court referred the case to a collection agency on July 15, 2008.
Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report.