National/World

Spanish tourist beaten with hammer in NY park

Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Action News

An unemployed man in a business suit abruptly pulled out a hammer and beat a Spanish tourist eating lunch with his girlfriend in the park around City Hall until bystanders wrestled the hammer away, prosecutors said.

John Yoos, his head shaved and wearing his navy blue suit, said nothing Tuesday as a prosecutor described the bizarre, unprovoked attack on a man who had no connection to Yoos beyond sitting next to him on a park bench.

"This is a completely random act of brutal violence on a total stranger," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Allison Altmann said.

Yoos, who was arraigned on an attempted-murder charge, is being held without bail and is due back in court on Friday. Despite the strange allegations, prosecutors and Yoos' lawyer aren't seeking a psychiatric evaluation for him.

Altmann said the tourist, Hugo Alejandre, was on a bench in City Hall Park on Monday when Yoos stood up and started hitting him in the head with the hammer's claw end.

"He did it over and over again," she said.

After Alejandre fell to the ground, Yoos whacked him in the back and hit his girlfriend when she tried to help him, the prosecutor said. Bystanders intervened and pried the hammer away, she said.

Alejandre, of Barcelona, was treated at a hospital for a spinal fracture, deep gashes to his face and cuts on his chest and arms. He declined to comment as he left the Manhattan district attorney's office on Tuesday.

Yoos, 43, was arrested nearby, and police collected the bloody hammer plus a 5-inch-long steak knife from his jacket, prosecutors said.

"I hit him approximately 10 times with the hammer, at least once in the head," Yoos told an officer, according to a court complaint.

Alyssa Gamliel, Yoos' lawyer, told a judge that Yoos has lived in New York for two years. He had been arrested once before, in Hawaii in 2008, in a case that involved failing to pay a fine, she said. The details of that case were unclear.

The New York allegations more likely should reflect an assault charge, rather than an attempted murder charge, Gamliel said, noting that Alejandre was released from a hospital within a day.

She said she wasn't planning to seek a psychiatric exam for her client, at least for now.

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