A Syracuse teenager was charged with assault in the unprovoked beating of a 70-year-old man outside a convenience store, an attack that the suspect paused in the middle of to celebrate, authorities said Monday.
Romeo Williams, 18, was charged with second-degree assault after Saturday morning’s beating of Jim Gifford, who was walking across the parking lot outside a 7-Eleven store on his daily trip to the store for doughnuts and a newspaper, Police Chief Frank Fowler said during a news conference.
Williams hit Gifford in the face, knocking him unconscious, Fowler said. Williams then entered the store and reveled in the attack before going back outside to beat and kick Gifford, police said.
“He celebrated in the store after the first assault by taking off his hat and holding it up in the air and smiling,” Sgt. Thomas Connellan said in an email. “He then went back outside and assaulted the victim again.”
Four men with Williams eventually pulled him off Gifford and they all drove away, police said. Giffords was left in critical condition.
Both the attack and Williams’ celebration were caught on video surveillance, Connellan said.
James McGraw, a Syracuse attorney who said he has represented Williams before, said that he hadn’t been contacted by him about the assault charge.
The random attack has sparked outrage in city where an earlier unprovoked attack by teenagers killed a 51-year-old man. About 100 people held a vigil Sunday for Gifford in the parking lot where he was assaulted.
“That’s a selfless, defenseless man, and he’s the most vulnerable in our community, and when you take advantage of the most vulnerable in our community, the community is not going to stay silent about it,” said Daren Jaime, pastor of the People’s AME Zion Church. “So it strikes the ire of everyone across this city.”
In May, Michael Daniels died from injuries suffered when he was punched at random outside a corner story by a 16-year-old boy taking part in a “knockout game” with other teens. The teen was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in a detention facility. A 13-year-old boy who punched Daniels first pleaded guilty to assault and received the same sentence.
Police said Saturday’s attack wasn’t part of a knockout game.