Police are investigating after an aspiring fashion design student was assaulted by a group of more than a dozen men in Brooklyn, leaving him with a broken eye socket and a torn retina.
The 22-year-old victim, Taj Patterson, who is black, says he was out with friends in Williamsburg Dec. 1 when a group of 15 to 20 men he described as Hasidic Jews wearing religious garb approached him.
"They came up behind me, they grabbed me, they punched me in the face, kicked me down, knocked me out," Patterson told NBC 4 New York.
Patterson's mother, Zahra Patterson, said "it wasn't until someone stopped them — the witnesses — otherwise, my son would have been left for dead."
Patterson was taken to the emergency room at Woodhull Hospital to be treated for his injuries. He's expected to have additional surgeries in two weeks to reattach the damaged retina.
Patterson said he had been drinking on a party bus with friends before the assault on Flushing Avenue in the heavily Orthodox section of Williamsburg, but has no idea why he was beat up.
"Maybe the way I dressed, I was on the block," he said. "I want these people to know they can't put their hands on anyone and get away with it, and think just because you have on certain attire you can get away with certain things. We're all equal here."
The NYPD says the hate crimes unit is investigating. Patterson was drunk the night of the assault, and it took several days to piece together the facts, they say.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the Borough Park section of Brooklyn but is a vocal advocate for Hasidic Jews across the borough, said "something obviously happened" to Patterson, but the allegation was "bizarre."
It "sounds so out of character," Hikind said.
Zahra Patterson said four witnesses have told police what happened, including the driver of a bus who jumped in to stop the assault.
"It's shocking," said Zahra Patterson. "It saddened me to even know that this level of hate exists so close to home, that a group could be so angry about whatever."