Sam Fox left her Manhattan apartment Thursday for one of her regular evening walks when an unidentified man sucker punched her in the face. 10 stitches and a large bruise later, she left the hospital ready to identify her attacker.
But looking at mugshots with police wouldn't be as straightforward as she initially expected, she later found out. In a lengthy post made on Instagram two days later, Fox said she was forced to choose between identifying the man and prioritizing her safety.
When Fox arrived at the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village on Saturday afternoon to look at mugshots, she said she hesitated to enter the precinct building because a number of officers inside were not wearing masks.
"When we arrived, we noticed right away that none of the many NYPD members in the lobby were wearing masks. Because [my fiancé] and I had already been to the ER and eye doctor and know we may have risked exposure to COVID-19, we were each wearing two masks to try to keep the people at the precinct and ourselves as safe as possible," she explained in her post.
A police source familiar with the investigation said individuals exiting the building around the time may have been maskless, but all officers and members inside were wearing a face covering.
The NYPD has repeatedly made headlines throughout the coronavirus pandemic when officers in a public-facing role were seen without masks. Elected leaders, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have on several occasions publicly condemned officers who chose not to wear masks.
The day of Fox's attack, news broke of NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea testing positive for the virus. According to a senior official, 463 NYPD members have currently tested positive, with three members hospitalized. More than 1,000 are out with flu-like symptoms.
"When I saw that on the news I went 'oh s--t, I probably shouldn't be going down to the precinct to expose myself,'" she told NBC New York.
Fox said she and her fiancé chose to wait outside the precinct until the detective working her case became available. Roughly 20 minutes went by when an officer approached the pair offering to help but when Fox said she wouldn't go inside because safety concerns the officer became defensive and a heated exchange of words broke out between the officer, Fox and her fiancé.
The situation de-escalated moments later and Fox said the pair continued to wait for the detective. Once he arrived, she repeated requests to view mugshots without entering the precinct.
"I asked if the detective could please ensure that everyone would be wearing a mask if we went inside given that it's a public mandate. He said that it's an unenforceable mandate and that while he would wear a mask if it would make me more comfortable, he couldn't ask others to do the same and he personally felt that masks do not help prevent COVID-19 anyway," she said in her post.
"I told him that science proves otherwise, but he said he was sticking to his opinion," Fox continued.
At least six detectives, a police officer and 40 civilian employees have died of the virus.
Prior to Saturday's meeting with the detective, Fox said she asked if an alternative was possible to prevent contact and potential exposure. She offered up FaceTime or Zoom, any method of electronic communication to review the mugshots rather than risk either's safety; she was told to come in person. The database used by the NYPD to hold mugshot files is only accessible on the department server at the precinct, the source said.
But Fox said she wasn't provided that additional context, only told that accommodations couldn't be made. The detective working with Fox told her the only course of action would be entering the precinct building to look at the photos.
Fox ultimately chose to walk away from the precinct rather than go inside. Hours later, she drafted her Instagram post to caution others about her experience, baffled by the inability to find a solution to help that didn't potentially compromise her health.
The investigation into Fox's attacker remains open, the source confirmed, and insisted she would be welcomed back to the precinct when she wanted to look at the mugshots.