Police arrest man over ‘brutal’ hammer attack at New York subway station

Feb 27, 2022, 7:47 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:18 pm
NYPD presented a reward flyer during a news conference. (WABC via CNN)...
NYPD presented a reward flyer during a news conference. (WABC via CNN)
(WABC via CNN)

(CNN) — Police have arrested a man who allegedly hit a woman over the head several times with a hammer before robbing her at a New York City substation on Thursday, according to the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Police last week said the 57-year-old woman was assaulted at the Queens Plaza subway station about 11 p.m. Thursday by a 6-foot tall male wearing a dark jacket, blue jeans and holding a cane. She was left bleeding from the brain and with a fractured skull in what they described as a brutal and unprovoked attack.

An NYPD spokesperson told CNN Sunday William Blount, 57, had been arrested over the attack after police conducted extensive video canvassing across the city.

Blount was arrested at his registered place of residence, which police described as a “shelter.”

The NYPD spokesperson said police are recommending charges of attempted murder, robbery and assault for Blount.

Blount has not yet been arraigned, Kim Livingston, a spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney’s Office, said, adding a complaint for his case has yet to be written. As such, Blount does not yet retain legal representation, Livingston said. Blount is scheduled to appear in court Monday, at which time his counsel will then be identified, according to Livingston.

NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said at a news conference Friday afternoon the suspect had kicked the woman and struck her “numerous times” before fleeing on foot with her purse.

The woman’s family identified her as Nina Rothschild, a scientist for the New York City Department of Health. She was attacked just 15 minutes after leaving work, police said.

“This is an unprovoked, brutal and appalling crime on a woman who was just trying to get home after a day’s work,” Essig said.

Rothschild, who was bleeding from her brain, was taken to Cornell Medical Center with a fractured skull and lacerations to her face, Essig said.

She has had part of her skull replaced with wire mesh, according to her brother, Gerson Rothschild. She also has a drop foot, a condition where the patient is unable to lift their foot. It is unclear whether it was nerve damage or a mental block, he said.

“Of course, I can’t wish this on someone else, it shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Gerson Rothschild told CNN on Saturday. “I wish it wasn’t my sister, but we have to deal with what we have.”

The sibling pair lost their parents within 29 days of each other in 2000.

“It’s just Nina and me, basically it’s just the two of us,” Gerson Rothschild said. “Little brother will do whatever he can to protect big sister.”

54% increase in transit system arrests compared to the same time last year, NYPD says

Chief of the NYPD Transit Bureau Jason Wilcox said additional patrols will be added in all boroughs but noted the Queens Plaza station where the incident took place is “a priority station” given it is heavily trafficked.

“We are definitely working very hard to increase uniform presence throughout the system, on the trains, on the platforms, along the mezzanines, in the stairs, so it is an absolute priority,” Wilcox said.

The presence of more officers will make people feel safer, Wilcox added.

“My directive and our mission is to be highly visible, on the trains, on the platforms moving around, taking train runs from other stations, so that’s what we’re very dedicated towards,” he said.

There have been more than 1,000 arrests in the transit system so far this year, Wilcox said, a 54% increase compared to data from the same time last year.

Attack happened one week after new transit safety plan announced

The attack happened a week after officials unveiled a new transit safety plan to combat crime and address homelessness in the city’s transit system as part of a new public safety initiative.

Mayor Eric Adams said Friday the objective is to go after people who violate basic rules, who don’t allow “the system to function in a clean, safe manner.”

Adams said safety crews are operating overnight and will target all crimes from fare evasion to smoking on the subway.

Gerson Rothschild said he is “all for” the safety plan.

“The thing is, I just think it’s a little early to see results, we just need to give him a little more time. … Hopefully, my sister will be the last to be attacked.”

“It’s a big city, you’re going to have something happen whether it’s under [Rudy] Giuliani, [Bill] de Blasio or [Eric] Adams, bad things happen,” Gerson Rothschild said. “I just hope that the perpetrator is caught and punished.”

Mayor Adams said he was “really angry” about the attack on Rothschild, and tweeted that the incident was “particularly horrific.”

“Violence against any New Yorker is unacceptable but an attack of a city worker who has dedicated her work to keeping people safe is particularly horrific,” the mayor tweeted.

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Police arrest man over ‘brutal’ hammer attack at New York subway station