CROWN HEIGHTS — A man suffered a fractured skull and multiple gashes to his head at the hand of a hammer-wielding assailant during what police are investigating as an anti-gay hate crime Tuesday morning.
Mitch Pope, 33, was walking back home from a coffee run Monday morning when a man he said he had never seen before followed him into his lobby of his apartment building at Washington Ave. near Sullivan Place in Crown Heights and suddenly went berserk.
"When I came to the front door I noticed there was a guy behind me with a black trash bag and I opened [the door] just assuming that he was doing construction in the building. As I soon as I let him in, I was about to walk up the stairs, he hit me in the back of the head with a hammer," Pope told DNAinfo Tuesday.
“I fell backwards and then he got on top of me and continued to hit me. And that’s when I started screaming because I feared for my life," said Pope, who said the man used homophobic slurs during the attack.
"He was saying ‘fa--ot’ over and over again while he was hitting me. I literally thought he was going to take my life,” Pope said. “It was horrifying.”
Pope, who is gay, said the attacker continued to rain down blows with the hammer, which he tried to deflect with his hands. But as Pope's shouts threatened to summon the neighbors, the man got scared, stole his phone, and ran off, he said.
Pope said his neighbors rushed out to aid him and called 911, as he lay on the ground, delirious.
He was taken to Methodist Hospital with a fractured skull and needed five staples to close his head wounds, he said.
Police said the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident. Pope said police told him they have clear surveillance footage of the attacker, who he described as tall wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt and Timberland boots.
No suspect has yet been identified, police said.
Pope said he's lived in the building for four years, after coming to NYC from Nashville 15 years ago, and added that until the attack, “I’ve never felt unsafe here at all.”
However, he said, the attack has changed his perspective.
"It’s scary. I don’t know if it was premeditated or if it was somebody that had watched me before or it just happened in the moment, but it definitely has put my guard up and led me to be more aware," Pope said.