S.U.V. driver arrested after assaulting pedestrian


By Lincoln Anderson

An interaction between a driver and a pedestrian in the East Village turned violent Friday evening when the former chased the latter into the St. Mark’s Bookshop, grabbed her by the hair, tearing off one of her earrings, and put her in a headlock.

The driver thought the pedestrian had scratched her car — a new-looking black Audi S.U.V. with New York plates — but the pedestrian denied it.

The incident occurred as the motorist was turning from Third Ave. onto Stuyvesant St.

Lorea Soto of Brooklyn said she was crossing Stuyvesant St. in the crosswalk and had the walk signal.

“She was inching toward me,” Soto said. “I looked at her and she started to inch more toward me.”

Physical contact occurred between Soto and the S.U.V.

“She was saying that I scratched her car,” Soto said. “There’s no scratch on it.”

Soto fled into the bookstore, where, according to Soto and a half-dozen witnesses, the driver pursued her and assaulted her.

“The employee in the bookstore said, ‘You can’t do that in here,’” Soto recounted. “That’s when I got out of the headlock.”

A police car happened to be nearby, and the officers responded right away. But they didn’t immediately make an arrest, despite the protestations of Soto and the witnesses, who all felt the driver should be busted for assault.

“She needs to know she can’t just do this,” Soto said as everyone was watching to see what the police would do.

At one point, the driver made as if to wipe something off her front right fender — apparently checking the spot of the alleged “scratch.”

Photographer George Duncan said he saw the whole thing, including when the woman put Soto in a headlock.

“I was standing right there looking at the book of The New York Times Magazine, because I’m in it,” he said.

Eventually, after some deliberation, at 10:15 p.m., police handcuffed the driver, put her in their cruiser and drove her off, as the small crowd of people watching cheered.

“I wouldn’t have left after I saw it,” Peter Labinger, another witness said, of the assault on Soto. “That’s all I wanted to see — was her in cuffs.”