A Manhattan man was beaten so badly by a group of teens near the New York University campus that he needed to get surgery for a fractured nose, and he said the sudden, violent attack was random and unprovoked.
Sal Avila, 27, says he was on his way to get a Citi Bike at about 1 a.m. Sunday after leaving a friend's house when he saw three young men walking toward him on the sidewalk in Washington Square Park. He looked down at his phone for a moment just as they were passing him, and that's when he says he was punched.
"Just as they were about to walk past me, one of them moves very suddenly and I feel a very hard impact to my face, as if I got hit by a brick or something," he said.
Avila was hurt, but he was able to run for help. Bystanders scared off the attackers and helped identify them to police. Officers quickly arrested one of the three suspects, a 16-year-old boy.
The teen has been charged with attempted robbery, but Avila said his attackers never tried to steal anything from him. He thinks their only goal was to hurt him.
"My watch wasn't taken. My phone, which was in my hand, wasn't taken," he said. "There was no attempt for my pockets that I could see."
"This wasn't an act to get anything from me," he said. "It was simply to do damage, and instill fear."
Avila was left with a fractured nose and needed surgery. Still, he said he feels lucky.
"In a way, I'm glad that i happened to me. I'm glad it didn't happen to someone elderly who could have died from the blow," he said.
Police are looking for the two other suspects.
"I don't want to be scared anymore. And I don't want anyone else to be scared," he said. "People should feel safe walking around their neighborhood, especially students."
Avila said he's grateful to the officers and others who came to his aid.