MANHATTAN—The besuited man suspected of viciously beating a Spanish tourist in City Hall Park with a hammer may have lied to authorities about his identity — adding a strange twist to an already bizarre case.
Last week, a 43-year-old man named John C. Yoos was charged with repeatedly bashing tourist Hugo Alejandre, 31, with the claw side of a hammer as the unsuspecting victim and his girlfriend ate lunch on a park bench.
But, as first reported in the Associated Press, a 43-year-old Canadian chess master named John C. Yoos from Vancouver says the alleged attacker is a former acquaintance — who has apparently stolen his identity.
The Canadian Yoos told DNAinfo.com in a phone interview Friday that a friend pointed him to the story, thinking it was just a weird coincidence that a man who shared his name and age was arrested in a bizarre New York attack.
But when Yoos looked up the details of the story, he realized he knew the suspected hammer-wielder.
"As you can imagine, I was quite shocked," said Yoos, who works in finance and is known in Western Canada for his chess tournament wins.
The two had met in the mid-90s through common friends in Winnipeg, Canada, and occasionally socialized through the years — though Yoos says he hasn't seen the man in nearly 10 years.
He described the suspect as someone who seemed "erratic and unstable," but, he added, "I had no idea what he was capable of."
The supposed identity thief worked as a waiter and at ski lodges in Whistler, British Columbia, Yoos said.
Yoos contacted New York authorities Tuesday, who informed him that the accused man had given them his name, birthday and Social Security number. Yoos has lived in Canada for many years, but is a U.S. citizen who grew up in Minnesota.
The chess master said he has no idea how the man obtained all his personal information, but he's now convinced the suspect has been living under his identity in America for many years.
The alleged attacker had one previous arrest under Yoos's name stemming from a jaywalking incident in Hawaii in 2008.
Yoos said he hasn't traveled to the U.S since around 2004 — and he's never been to Hawaii.
The Manhattan D.A.'s office declined to comment, but sources say they are continuing to investigate the case.
"I think at this point there is zero doubt that I'm who I say I am, and he's not," Yoos said.
The possibly faux Yoos is due back in court Aug. 28.
Alejandre suffered deep head wounds as well as a spinal fracture in the attack, prosecutors said. He was released from Bellevue Hospital soon after the attack.