On Oct. 10, 2018, New York Post reporter Dean Balsamini was punched in the head by a homeless man he was trying to interview, local newspaper the Villager reports.
Balsamini mentioned the assault in an Oct. 13 article for the Post, titled “Post reporter investigating vagrants gets punched in the head.” Balsamini identifies the man who attacked him as “Zeke,” one of a number of young homeless people who congregate near a fenced-off vacant lot in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. In the article, Balsamini derisively refers to Zeke as a 25-year-old “traveler” from Kansas with “farm-animal musk” and “Charles Manson eyes.”
According to Balsamini, Zeke willingly answered a few of the reporter’s questions but then became upset after seeing Balsamini write his name down in a notebook.
“He screamed that he ‘wanted his name back,’” Balsamini wrote.
Balsamini reported that John O’Connell, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s ninth precinct, personally called him after the attack.
On Oct. 16, O'Connell spoke about the attack at a community council meeting. According to the Villager, O’Connell said that other homeless people in the area regarded Zeke as “emotionally disturbed” and did not want to be associated with him. O’Connell also said that Balsamini did not require medical attention after the attack and did not press charges.
After Balsamini wrote about the attack for the Post, police sweeps and crackdowns on homeless encampments in the East Village increased. The NYPD also installed a light tower next to the vacant lot where Balsamini was attacked.