SOUTH SLOPE — A 67-year-old Long Island man died after he was shoved to the ground during a robbery on 18th Street Wednesday, according to the NYPD.
Jesus Morales, who lived in Merrick, was visiting 255 18th St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues about 7 p.m. when a man wearing all black — including a black mask — attacked him and threw him to the ground, police said.
Paramedics found Morales sprawled on the sidewalk in front of 255 18th St. with severe heard injuries. The wounds appeared to be consistent with a severe fall, a police source said.
Morales was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center, where he died, police said.
The attacker took Morales' wedding band, police said, and may have taken Morales' wallet, watch and other personal effects, sources said.
Police said Morales was visiting the building to buy a car from a friend, but Morales' wife said her husband was walking to his car after work when the suspect held him up. Esmerelda Morales told DNAinfo New York that her husband worked in Brooklyn as a travel agent and tax preparer.
"I was calling him on his cell phone yesterday, and it just kept ringing," she said in Spanish Wednesday. "I ran over there once I heard."
Morales, who was on her way to the morgue to identify her husband's body on Thursday morning, said she and her husband had been married 25 years and have a 22-year-old daughter.
At least one witness saw the brutal attack as it was unfolding. A woman told police she heard a thump and saw the suspect leaning over Morales rifling through his pockets as he lay on the ground. The suspect spotted the woman and ordered her to leave, so she crossed to the other side of the street, police said. She then saw the suspect run east on 18th Street toward Sixth Avenue.
Another witness came face to face with the attacker as he was fleeing the scene. A man told police he saw the suspect running toward him. Then the suspect made an about-face and ran eastbound on 18th Street toward Sixth Avenue.
No arrests have been made and police said the investigation is ongoing.
The violent crime left residents shaken. The attack happened in front of a building full of artists' studios and apartments.
"It was a little too close for comfort," said Jamey Hamm, who lives in 255 18th St. and walked out of his building about 7:20 p.m. Wednesday night to find Morales on the sidewalk, bleeding from his head and coughing up blood.
The neighborhood is usually quiet, but Hamm said two of his friends had been mugged recently on nearby blocks. "With all that, and then this happening, it's kind of crazy," Hamm said.
Block resident Kristine Gasbarre said she at first assumed the commotion on Wednesday night was construction, not a police investigation. Then a detective asked her if she had seen the suspect. Gasbarre said she went to bed Wednesday night with her phone and her keys at her side.
"It's scary," Gasbarre said. "This doesn't typicallly happen on this block. I've lived here for two years and I've never felt scared at night."