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Brooklyn Man in Coma After 'Racist' Union Square Attack, Sources Say

By  Murray Weiss and Andrea Swalec | September 6, 2013 6:34pm | Updated on September 7, 2013 12:02pm

 A homeless man punched a 62-year-old man walking through Union Square Sept. 4, 2013, leaving him brain-dead, sources said.
A homeless man punched a 62-year-old man walking through Union Square Sept. 4, 2013, leaving him brain-dead, sources said.
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MANHATTAN — A Brooklyn man is fighting for his life after he was attacked at random in Union Square on Wednesday by a homeless man who announced he hated white people, sources said Friday.

Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, was walking in the southwest corner of the park when he was punched by a disturbed man in the middle of a tirade, sources said.

Sources said Lashawn Marten, 31, had been watching people play chess in the park about 3 p.m. Wednesday when he complained that nobody wanted to play with him. Then he began pacing through Union Square, railing against tourists and white people.

"I'm going to punch the next white person I see," Marten said, according to sources.

Marten wheeled around and whacked Babbitt, sending the back of his head slamming to the pavement, court records show and sources said.

Babbitt was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he is in a coma and has been declared brain-dead, records show.

When two bystanders tried to intervene, Marten punched them too, leaving one man with injuries to his head and back and another man with pain in his face, according to court records.

"Obviously, our hate crime task force is involved in aspects of that case," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference Friday.

Sources say the man in a coma is a Sheepshead Bay resident who is the primary caretaker for his 94-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

Neighbor Janice Nadel described the man as friendly and kind, and said Babbitt's mother had been at his hospital bedside.

"He's a very good guy," she said. "He always helps us when we need to change a lightbulb or something."

When Marten was arraigned Thursday night, he mocked the judge and asked that his bail be set at one penny, sources said.

In response, the judge set bail at $1 million, sources said and records show.

Marten faces two felony assault charges, court records show. He has numerous previous arrests for assault, sources said.

The incident — which was first reported by Gothamist — is being investigated as a hate crime, sources said.