Police are looking for a woman who allegedly shoved an 87-year-old woman from behind without warning in Manhattan last week, causing her to fall and hit her head and sending her to the hospital with traumatic brain damage, authorities and the woman's grandson say.
Barbara Gustern was on West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, just steps away from her home, around 8:30 p.m. Thursday when cops say the suspect attacked. No words were exchanged.
Her grandson posted a Facebook message early Monday saying "I am here holding her hand" and that his loved one had not regained consciousness since the attack.
"She is intubated and we are unclear how much she is able to breathe on her own," the grandson wrote. "Should she awake, she will most likely suffer speech problems and may be unable to move her right side. It is a very serious injury."
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The grandson went on to say he is "incomprehensibly broken inside."
"I struggle to understand and cope with this world on a daily basis, and frankly this is beyond my ability to bear," he added. "Do what you can for your fellow human being, no matter how small. Make the time. Preventing needless loss and violence like this starts with us as individuals. We must care more for each other."
According to The New York Times, Gustern is an acclaimed singing coach who once helped train rock singer Debbie Harry and the cast of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical "Oklahoma!" A neighbor said that Gustern used to perform on Broadway herself, along with her late husband.
The paper reports she was attacked shortly after leaving her home. Her Facebook page was overwhelmed with support from friends and colleagues who kept sharing around the surveillance video police provided, desperate to find her attacker.
Police said the woman who shoved the 87-year-old just walked away after the incident.
"I think I just kind of numbed myself out to do what I had to do, but's kind of, just praying," said John Sannuto, who has been a student of Gustern's for 25 years and had just seen her for a lesson the day before the attack.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.