Farrukh Afzal is the 37 year old man accused of assaulting Lipa Schwartz, an orthodox Jewish man, last week in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. Schwartz, 62, said he was walking to synagogue on Sunday morning when suddenly a man jumped out of a car and attacked him from behind. “All of a sudden, ‘boom,'” he said. “I tried to protect myself, run away. I fell. He come again on me.” You can watch video of the attack here.
Farrukh Afzal, a Staten Island resident and livery car driver, was arrested quickly on the scene. Schwartz said he suspected that Afzal had attacked him for being Jewish, so he went up to him and asked. “I went to him when he was handcuffed, ‘what did I do to you that you tried to murder me? Tell me,'” Schwartz said. “He didn’t answer back.”
Prosecutors initially said they believed that Afzal was acting out of “road rage” and that this wasn’t a case of anti-semitism. They originally charged him with attempted assault in the second degree, assault in the third degree, menacing and harassment.
But on Friday afternoon, BoroPark24, a news site covering the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, reported that Afzal has been charged with a hate crime. BoroPark24 cited Chaim Deutsch, the councilmember representing Boro Park. Deutsch wrote,
TY @BrooklynDA for presenting a hate crime charge against the assailant in Sunday’s assault in Boro Park. It is important that, in a high-profile case like this, the attacker is held accountable for his actions. Kudos again to @BPShomrim for their role in apprehending the perp!
Afzal’s Family Says He Has a History of Mental Illness
Afzal’s sister in law told the New York Post that the 37 year old was not motivated by anti-semitism when he attacked Lipa Schwartz. She said he was just “off his meds.”
Maira Riaz, Afzal’s sister in law, told the Post, “He’s a good guy, he just has a case of paranoia and schizophrenia. He’s been seeing things and believes he’s a prophet,” she said of Afzal. “He’s just off his meds.”
But state assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the Boro Park street where Schwartz was attacked, paints a different picture. Hikind said that he had spoken with Lipa Schwartz, the 62-year-old victim. He said Schwartz said that Afzal was “raving” about “Israel” and “Allah” while he beat Schwartz.