A woman who was swarmed by a group of men outside a Harlem liquor store before being beaten, bitten, spit on and robbed described the harrowing and unprovoked attack as police search for those responsible.
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, told NBC New York she stopped at a liquor store on West 128th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue after work around 6 p.m. Monday when the group of men offered to buy her a bottle of wine. She politely declined, and that's when the situation escalated. They followed her, surrounded her and attacked right outside the store.
"I couldn't believe it, it was like an animal. That's the only way I can put it, it was like an animal," she said. The woman told News 4 the men punched, kicked and spit on her, then one of the strangers started biting her face.
"I just remember screaming to the top of my lungs, I just kept saying 'He's biting me! He's biting me!'" she recalled. "He bit through my eyebrow and then he continued to just, he kept opening his mouth to try to like re-grasp."
An outraged community, led by advocate Tony Herbert, put up a cash reward, demanding someone who knows the men to step forward.
"What took place here is atrocious," Herbert said. "To assault a sister like this is an insult and a direct attack on every woman in our city."
The attackers also took off with a $750 iPhone they stole from her, police said. As for the 31-year-old woman, doctors had to stitch up the bite marks on her left eye. But the physical wounds will heal — the emotional ones are still raw.
"My thoughts aren't the normal thoughts anymore," she said. "It was like they wanted to degrade me, by spitting on me and kicking me."
For her, there is only one thing that will bring some peace: an arrest.
"It's just sad, you can't even go about your day, minding your business ... a polite decline could lead to something like this," the woman said. "I'm a mother, I'm a daughter, I'm a friend. This could be anyone's mother, sister, daughter that are just in a store minding their business, purchasing their goods."
Police are looking for the three unidentified men. They released surveillance video of the suspects inside the store and footage outside that shows them surround the woman. Grainy video later shows what appears to be the attack in front of a white vehicle on the street, just off the curb.
Anyone with information on the attack is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.