INWOOD — An Inwood mom who was punched in the face and mugged in front of her young daughter while walking in Fort Tryon Park is so disgusted and shaken by the broad daylight attack that she wants to leave the neighborhood, the victim told DNAinfo.com.
The assault, which unfolded on Aug. 23 at 1:37 p.m. in the lower path of Fort Tryon Park near Broadway and Dongan Place, left the woman bloody-mouthed and stunned as her 3-year-old daughter and friend’s 3-year-old watched.
"There is no respect for humanity when someone would pick on a woman with two children,” said the 33-year-old victim, who lives on the border of Inwood and Washington Heights and asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns.
A man who was walking in the park helped her call 911 after the attack and assisted cops in tracking down the alleged assailant moments later.
Police caught 40-year-old Ismael Velez, who was carrying the victim’s purse, near Dyckman Street, and charged him with second-degree robbery, criminal possession of stolen property and endangering the welfare of a child, according to court documents.
He is being held on $25,000 bail or $50,000 bond and is due to be arraigned in Supreme Court later this month, according to city documents.
The woman's injuries were minor and she remembers little between the incident and being treated in the emergency room that evening, she said, but the trauma of having her daughter watch such an incident has been devastating.
“She saw everything. Her friend didn’t even want to look at me in face for a few days, because I looked so scary,” she said. “It’s really upsetting to have your 3-year-old use the word mugged and know what it means already.”
The mother said she is not sure she could have done anything to ward off the attack.
“I don’t think any amount of self-defense class would have helped, he snuck up behind me and punched me in the face,” she said.
The only thing that could have prevented the crime was not going into the park in the first place, she added.
“My husband and I had ignored some feelings that it wasn’t as safe as we hoped,” she said. “We should have listened to that.”
The 33-year-old said losing access to area parks is tough, considering it was one of the main draws for the neighborhood.
“Whenever people asked me about Inwood I say it’s wonderful and that the parks are amazing, but now I feel we don’t even have that,” she said.
Now, the victim is warning other residents to be careful in area parks as well as other areas in the neighborhood.
Although police have reported a rise in muggings and violent crime in those areas, the woman said she and her neighbors turned a blind eye to drug dealing and suspicious behavior nearby thinking it would not impact them directly.
“Don’t think that you would not be a victim just because it’s the middle of the day or you have your children with you or you’re not wealthy,” she said. “I had two kids with me, I’m not wealthy, and I was still targeted.”
News of the attack has left several parents in the neighborhood unsettled, especially on the heels of rising crime in the 34th Precinct, which oversees the area where the incident took place.
Parents on one online community forum are now considering creating a civilian patrol, much like the Inwood Safety Patrol that organized in the northern section of Inwood after several muggings and sexual assaults in that area in 2010.
The Guardian Angels began monitoring activity in the park for a short time after that incident.
Some parents who live near Fort Tryon Park said they plan to attend a public safety meeting, which is being held Thursday night, to discuss their concerns and make plans for the future.
For now, the victim and her family’s future in Inwood are uncertain, especially in light of a continued rise in crime in the area.
Her husband was out looking for a new apartment in the Riverdale section of The Bronx on Wednesday.
“If me getting mugged was some extreme aberration, we would not take the course of action to leave the neighborhood,” she said. “But we can’t stay here and take a risk while raising our daughter."