EAST VILLAGE — Relatives and dozens of community members gathered Monday night to mourn Wen Hui Ruan, the 68-year-old man who was beaten to death near his East Village home 10 days earlier.
Some attendees of the memorial, held on East Sixth Street between Avenues C and D, knelt to light candles and incense at a makeshift shrine, while others sat on folding chairs and wept.
“It’s just a senseless situation,” said Debra Roberts, who lives nearby on Avenue C and knew Ruan.
Ruan was killed in an attempted robbery after Jamie Pugh, 20, confronted him a block from his home at 8:45 p.m. on May 9, prosecutors said. Pugh told Ruan to “gimme something,” police said, but Ruan, who spoke limited English, began to walk away. Pugh then grabbed him by shoulders and threw him into a wall before stomping and kicking his head, prosecutors said.
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, whose office organized the memorial, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin expressed their condolences and called on the community to take a stand against violence.
“Together we gather as a community to say that we feel your pain, we are so sorry and this community does care,” Mendez said to Ruan’s family. “We know that violence has been rampant in this city and this particularly was a very senseless act of violence that led to your loss.”
Chin also asked the community to step in whenever they see someone in need, mentioning surveillance video that showed passersby ignoring Ruan for more than four minutes as he lay dying in the street.
“In the memory of Mr. Wen Hui Ruan, let’s make a pledge to stand together against hatred and violence in our neighborhood and let’s pledge to step in and help one another, to do something or say something when someone else needs help, to make it our problem and solve it together as one community, as one city,” Chin said.
In a statement read by Mendez, the said called Pugh "should spend the rest of his life in prison so my father can rest in peace and people can live in this community and feel safe again.”
Pugh faces murder, assault and robbery charges.
The family has not yet claimed Ruan’s body, according to the statement, but the will release funeral information once they are able to make arrangements. The family declined to speak with reporters.
Neighbors who attended the memorial said the attack on Ruan was jarring.
“I was watching the news and I was like, ‘Oh my god, he looks like my neighbor,’ and it turns out it was him,” Roberts said.
Nicholas Loek, who lives upstairs in the building where Ruan was killed, said he had only seen Ruan in passing, but called the attack “tragic.”
“I just wish I could have done something,” he said, choking up, adding that he had heard a noise that night but didn’t think much of it at the time. “I only looked after it happened.”