A week ago, a man was arrested in Union Square after allegedly attacking three people in broad daylight in what appears to be a racially-motivated attack. Victim Jeffery Babbitt, 62, died Monday morning at Bellevue Hospital after being declared brain dead over the weekend. The Times reports today that suspect Lashawn Martin, 40, has a history of mental illness—as well as a complicated relationship with race. “Martin did not like authority and as we were growing up, the only people with authority were white people,” his brother Joseph Redrick told them. “A lot of times that problem with authority was transferred to white people.”
The Times reports that the suspect's actual name is Martin Redrick—he gave police the false name of Lashawn Martin for unknown reasons. Redrick, who grew up with five brothers and a sister in Newburgh, NY, has been in and out of jail since the late '90s. His family says his drug use worsened his mental state: "In the '90s, he smoked something called wet—marijuana soaked in formaldehyde," said Scarlett Redrick, who is married to Redrick's brother. "Everybody who knew him knew he was unpredictable and was going to snap one day."
He spent 22 months in jail for an assault from 1997, and was then arrested at least 20 times by officers in Newburgh, according to Lt. Dan Cameron of the Police Department there. Those offenses included numerous trespassing and open-container violations, punching a police officer, harassing a woman leaving a library, and shoplifting. In 2007, he was diagnosed with clinical schizophrenia, and cut off contact with his family soon after.
Since moving to NYC, he's been living in supported housing for people with mental illness; he's also been arrested for marijuana possession and striking (and then spitting upon) a woman in Harlem. Last Wednesday, he was hanging out by the chess tables in the park when he became angry, possibly because no one wanted to play him; sources told us he jumped up allegedly shouting "I hate white people," then struck Babbitt.
"He said 'The next white person who walks by, I'm going to [expletive],'" one female witness told WCBS.
When he was being arraigned last week, he mocked the judge and asked that his bail be set at one penny—in response, the judge set bail at $1 million. Redrick has been charged with assault, but police are still investigating the incident as a possible hate crime; after Babbitt's death, he is expected to be have his charges increased to murder.