73° Good Afternoon
73° Good Afternoon

Man offering ‘free hugs’ slugs Times Square tourist: Cops

Jermaine Himmelstein is walked from the Midtown North

Jermaine Himmelstein is walked from the Midtown North precinct Thursday, May 12, 2016. He was arrested for punching a tourist in Times Square. Photo Credit: amNewYork / Alison Fox

A 22-year-old Canadian tourist was assaulted Thursday afternoon when she refused to hand over money to a man offering “free hugs” in Times Square, NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said.

Suspect Jermaine Himmelstein, 25, attacked after he demanded cash for a tip from the victim three times, a law enforcement official said.

They had taken pictures together, the official said, and he was found in Union Square and taken into custody a few hours later.

He was charged with attempted robbery and fraudulent accosting.

On Thursday, the woman, from Ottawa, suffered a black eye, swelling to her face, as well as cuts and bruising, O’Neill said. She was taken to Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital for evaluation.

While in custody, Himmelstein was also charged with a separate assault in which he allegedly punched a 23-year-old woman on April 29 as she was waiting for the subway near Times Square, police said.

“I was aggressively asking for tips,” Himmelstein said as he was led out of the Midtown North precinct Thursday evening.

Himmelstein is “no stranger to this,” O’Neill said, adding he has multiple prior arrests, including several for the same type of offense.

In 2013, Himmelstein was featured in a New York Times profile in which he said he gives out the free hugs to make people feel good, but asks for a dollar if someone wants to take a photograph.

But the profile said Himmelstein could turn “glowering and intense in an instant,” and can badger people if his offer is turned down.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos