A 29-year-old Brooklyn man has been charged in a 52-count indictment in seven separate attacks on women in East Williamsburg dating back to August, prosecutors said Wednesday. He allegedly targeted them both because they were women and because they were "light-skinned," according to investigators.
Khari Covington faces charges of assault, strangulation and burglary as hate crimes in addition to other offenses. Covington, who lives in a transitional housing center in East Williamsburg, where all of the attacks occurred, was arrested on Jan. 5, a day after allegedly attacking a woman in a Wilson Avenue smoke shop.
Five of the seven women he is accused of attacking were assaulted in the Morgan Avenue train station, prosecutors say. Two of those attacks happened in a 24-hour span starting on New Year's Day. Covington also allegedly attacked a woman at that same train station three days after Christmas and another on Dec. 11.
He has also been linked to a Nov. 17 assault at the Morgan Avenue station. Prior to that spree, there was only one connected attack -- on Aug. 5, before 10 a.m., in a building on Morgan Avenue located about a tenth of a mile from the station.
The series of attacks involved women hit from behind, punched in the face and knocked to the ground, police and prosecutors have said.
"He came out of nowhere, he started punching me. He hit my face, my chest, my shoulder," said victim Bianca Fortis.
Another woman told NBC New York she was attacked at the Morgan Avenue station in November.
"He was coming down behind me, and he must have — from the angle and from what I've gathered — kicked me in the side of the face and head from behind," said Elizabeth Wakefield. "My immediate thought after it happened to me was, I really hope this doesn't happen again to somebody else."
Police did not confirm to NBC New York whether Wakefield's attack was linked to the others. But she said that after talking with the other victims, "it sounds like similar descriptions of what he looked like and pretty much the exact same style of attack, and the same exact subway stop."
Covington's bail was continued at $150,000 after his arraignment Wednesday, prosecutors said. Information on his attorney wasn't immediately available.
The suspect, who is considered a mandatory violent persistent felony offender, faces up to life in prison if convicted. He is due back in court in mid-April.
"This defendant’s alleged violent and unprovoked attacks endangered the women he targeted and caused widespread fear in the community," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday. "I am committed to prosecuting all hate crimes where victims, including as alleged in this case, are targeted because of their gender, skin color or race."