BY GERARD FLYNN | Although it has been 50 years since Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her Kew Gardens apartment, her brutal murder was evoked Monday evening at a vigil in the East Village, where another senseless act of violence recently took place.
Similar to the circumstances of Genovese’s death, Wen Hui Ruan — a retired garment factory worker, originally from China — was returning home alone at night Fri., May 9, when he was attacked on E. Sixth St. near Avenue D, just a block from his apartment.
A surveillance video shows his assailant approaching him from behind, then, in an extremely brutal attack, throwing the 68-year-old against a concrete wall, before viciously punching him once and stomping him three times on his head.
Ruan died the next day. Four days after the assault, on a tip, police arrested a local man, Jamie Pugh, 20, for the murder.
Provoking outrage among some in the community, however, the footage also shows passersby either witnessing the attack or its aftermath, but without offering assistance, as Ruan lies mortally injured.
Steve Cannon, the blind poet and longtime operator of A Gathering of the Tribes Gallery, was returning from dinner with friends and missed the attack by two minutes. He said he was appalled by what happened in the six minutes before police arrived.
After finally vacating his home / gallery in the former E. Third St. Tribes space due to an agreement with the landlord, Cannon recently moved to E. Sixth St. — right next to the spot of the murder. He sat at the vigil with Ruan’s family members, who sobbed uncontrollably, as well-wishers placed flowers before a makeshift shrine at the scene of the attack.
“By the time we got to the ramp he was coughing up blood,” Cannon recalled. He could barely contain his outrage as he recounted how a local woman, child in tow, screamed for assistance outside Cannon’s building, frantically ringing door bells, in vain. No one in his building came to her aid, or helped detectives in their follow-up investigation the next day.
“These mother f——- are so crazy they don’t know that s— can happen to them, too,” Cannon said.
Chinatown activist Karlin Chan also shared his indignation.
“This goes back to the Genovese murder,” he said. “This is a classic example. Maybe people didn’t want to get involved or were afraid, but at least you can go down the block and make an anonymous call to 911.”
Mourners were joined by local City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer.
Community board representatives were also present, as well as staff members for state Senators Daniel Squadron and Brad Hoylman.
Brewer, who lost a family member to violence, said she shared the councilmembers’ outrage over the shockingly violent assault.
Despite Chan’s claims that the attack’s ferocity suggests a racial motive, Mendez said she has no reason to believe that was, in fact, the case. It doesn’t necessarily mean area crime is increasing, either, she added.
“Violence happens and it happens here but it’s not happening on a daily basis,” she said.
Recalling how people saw the beating and walked on, Chin reminded everyone that such an attack “could happen to anyone.”
“Any violence in our community is our problem,” she stressed.