Nachum Gross, 72, is the south Florida man accused of aggravated battery after police said he pushed another man, identified as Gerald Steiglitz, 86, out of a condo elevator. Gross’ attorney has said his client was protecting himself and his wife against the coronavirus. The condominium currently allows only two people on elevators at a time in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
Steiglitz stumbled into a table and bruised his thigh, according to a police report obtained by CBS Miami. Inmate records show Gross turned himself in to Miami Beach police on June 2 after the charge was announced.
He posted a $5,000 bond and was released from custody a few hours later. Gross was due back in court on July 31, according to the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts website.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Exchange Was Recorded On a Surveillance Camera But the Video Doesn’t Include Audio
The exchange between Gross and Steiglitz was captured on a surveillance camera. But it was unclear what the two men said to each other in the leadup to the push. The footage does not include audio.
In the video, Gross and his wife were seen getting on the elevator on the 39th floor. WPLG-TV reported they were both wearing masks, although in the video shared by CBS Miami, Gross’ mask was not covering his nose.
Gross first stopped a young woman from getting on the elevator. He waved her off and she stepped back. But Gross received a different reaction when the elevator stopped again and Steiglitz tried to get on. Steiglitz was also wearing a mask.
The clip shows Gross holding up two fingers as he stepped forward to block Steiglitz from getting on. Steiglitz held up four fingers himself before crossing his arms in front of his chest. Steiglitz appeared to stick his elbows out as he tried to get on the elevator. Gross responded by placing a fist on Steiglitz’s right arm and extending his own arm forward in a light push. Steiglitz fell backward and hit a hallway table, bruising his leg, according to WSVN-TV.
2. Steiglitz Said Gross Could Have Asked Him to Take the Next Elevator, But Gross’ Attorney Claimed Steiglitz Responded, ‘I Don’t Care, Move’
Steiglitz told NBC Miami that he knew Gross prior to the elevator incident and that they typically waved when they saw each other around the building. Steiglitz claimed that Gross never asked him to get off the elevator before pushing him.
“He could have said to me, ‘go down, take the next one.’ He just pushed me out,” Steiglitz told the TV station. “I’m not looking for financial reward. I’m not looking for anything.” Steiglitz added to WSVN-TV that had Gross apologized, he wouldn’t have called the police.
But Gross had a different recollection. In an email to Heavy, Gross’ attorney, Michael Grieco, said his client reminded Steiglitz that only two people were allowed on the elevator at once and that he needed to wait. Gross claimed Steiglitz responded, “I don’t care, move” before attempting to board the lift anyway. Grieco described Gross’ movement as a light push. Gross has also said he did try to apologize.
3. Gross’ Lawyer Said His Client Was Acting In Self-Defense
Grieco argues that his client was defending himself and his wife against the coronavirus. He explained during a July 2 news conference that Gross and his wife have health issues that make them especially susceptible to the virus.
Grieco said that “in this world of COVID every human being is a lethal weapon” and described Gross’ actions as self-defense. “Miami Beach police is not taking into account the fact that we live in the time of COVID and immunocompromised people, and all people, should be able to protect themselves from anyone invading their space. This is a straight-up Stand Your Ground self-defense case.”
Under Florida’s legal code, “a person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.” The statute goes on to explain that “nondeadly force” is legally permitted “when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
4. Miami Beach Police Charged Gross With Aggravated Battery Against an Elderly Person, Which Is a Felony
Miami Beach Police public information officer Ernesto Rodriguez explained on a prepared statement that officers decided to press charges after meeting with Steiglitz. “The MBPD was contacted by the victim and a subsequent investigation was launched. After conferring with the State Attorney’s Office, it was determined an arrest should be made.”
According to the Miami Herald, the state attorney’s office did not “authorize” an arrest but that a detective decided an arrest was warranted after viewing the surveillance footage. Gross surrendered himself to police on June 2. He was booked into jail just before 11 a.m. and released four hours later, inmate records show.
Gross is charged with aggravated battery against an elderly person. Battery is typically a misdemeanor offense in Florida but the charge is elevated to a felony when the victim is 65 or older. According to Florida’s legal code:
A person who is convicted of an aggravated assault or aggravated battery upon a person 65 years of age or older shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years and fined not more than $10,000 and shall also be ordered by the sentencing judge to make restitution to the victim of such offense and to perform up to 500 hours of community service work. Restitution and community service work shall be in addition to any fine or sentence which may be imposed and shall not be in lieu thereof.
5. The Condominium Released a Statement Confirming the Two-Person Elevator Rule
Gross and Steiglitz were both residents of the Portofino Tower, a 44-story condominium building located near Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. The organization released a statement confirming the elevator rules that were implemented amid the coronavirus pandemic:
Portofino Towers has strict rules in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents during the pandemic. They include a 2-person maximum capacity in elevators and a requirement that masks be worn in all public areas, including elevators. Our community’s good health during the pandemic remains our top priority.
According to business records with the Florida Secretary of State’s office, Gross and his wife have operated an international realty company since at least 2002. Property records indicate the couple has been living at Portofino Tower since at least 1997.