Martin Redrick, 40, appeared briefly in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday with his hands cuffed. He was charged in the savage attack of Jeffrey Babbitt, 62 in Union Square Park on September 4th. (Photo: John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times)
Throughout his adult life, Martin Redrick bounced from one conflict to the next, frequently showing the potential for violence. He abused drugs, threw bottles and punches at the police and others, struggled with mental illness and was frequently agitated by white people. (Mr. Redrick is black.)
“Martin did not like authority and as we were growing up, the only people with authority were white people,” said a brother, Joseph Redrick, 47. “A lot of times that problem with authority was transferred to white people.”
Last Wednesday afternoon, that trait manifested itself again, according to the police. After finishing a chess game in Union Square Park, Mr. Redrick grew angry at white commuters bumping into him as they left the busy subway station and declared he was going to punch one, according to the New York Times.
Sheepshead Bay resident Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, died after being assaulted in Union Square Park on September 4th.
That person was Jeffrey Babbitt, a comic-book enthusiast from Brooklyn whom friends described as mild-mannered and who was leaving the station. Mr. Redrick, 40, punched Mr. Babbitt, 62, in the face, sending him to the ground and causing an injury that led to his death on Monday, the authorities said.
The assault charges against Mr. Redrick had not yet been upgraded to a more serious charge on Tuesday, but new details emerged about his troubled background, one that may have foreshadowed violence, but never apparently rose to the level that might have required lengthy imprisonment or hospitalization.
Mr. Redrick — who appears to have given the police the false name of Lashawn Marten — grew up with five brothers and a sister in Newburgh, N.Y., about 60 miles north of New York City.
Scarlett Thomas, who was married to Joseph Redrick until 2009, said she and Joseph adopted Martin Redrick’s son when the father was in and out of jail. And though Martin Redrick sometimes displayed anger toward white people, both Joseph Redrick and Ms. Thomas , who is white, said he was always kind to Ms. Thomas’s daughter from a previous marriage. “He called her ‘My precious little Snow White,’ ” she said.
But there had long been worries within the family about Mr. Redrick’s behavior, which had worsened with drug use, she said.
“In the ’90s, he smoked something called wet — marijuana soaked in formaldehyde,” she said in a telephone interview from Dallas, where she now lives. “Everybody who knew him knew he was unpredictable and was going to snap one day.”
Jeffery Babbitt, 62, lies on the pavement in the Southern end of Union Square Park on September 4th after being allegedly struck in the face by Martin Redrick in an unprovoked attack. Mr. Babbitt, a retired transit worker hit his head on the ground and was later declared brain dead at Bellevue Hospital. (Photo: Joey Boots via gothamist)
In 1997, Mr. Redrick pleaded guilty to assault in Newburgh and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation, according to court records. He violated the terms of his probation and was resentenced to 16 months in prison.
After he was released from prison in 2000, officers in Newburgh had at least 20 encounters with him, said Lt. Dan Cameron of the Police Department there. Mr. Redrick lived on the streets and was repeatedly arrested or given summonses for trespassing and open-container violations.
But some of the charges were more serious, Lieutenant Cameron said. Mr. Redrick was arrested twice in 2002 for hurling bottles near police officers. In one case, Mr. Redrick punched an officer in the face. The next year he was charged with harassment after a woman leaving a Newburgh library said she took something he said about “getting stabbed in the back” as a threat.
After being charged with shoplifting in 2004, he spent time in the Middletown Psychiatric Center, according to Orange County correction officials. Ms. Thomas said Mr. Redrick had received a diagnosis of schizophrenia in 2007 and later cut off contact with his family. She said that early this year she learned he was living in New York City and spoke with him on the phone.
“He didn’t realize he had been missing for three years,” she said. “He thought he had just talked to us last week.”
He was arrested on Nov. 23, 2010, in Manhattan and charged with possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty the next day and was sentenced to time served, according to court records.
He was most recently arrested on Aug. 13, for trying to strike a woman in Harlem and then spitting in her face, the police said. He was recently living in supported housing, a type of residence where people with mental illness can receive special services but are typically free to come and go.
Mr. Redrick, who is being held at Rikers Island in $1 million bail, was taken to State Supreme Court in Manhattan for a brief appearance on Tuesday. He wore a tan shirt, with plaid patches across his broad shoulders.
He was clearly agitated, and immediately began insisting that his new court-appointed lawyer, Michael J. Croce, hand him a business card. After repeatedly trying to interrupt as Mr. Croce spoke to the judge, Mr. Redrick grew louder and more insistent.
“Excuse me, I don’t want you to represent me if you don’t give me your business card right now,” Mr. Redrick said.
Chess players at Union Square Park were still shaken by the attack. Several described Mr. Redrick as a loner with some strange habits, but one who attracted little attention in a park where the offbeat is commonplace. Frederick Spruill, 69, said he first noticed Mr. Redrick playing chess this summer and thought he appeared to have “some kind of mental challenge.”
“He was very quiet,” Mr. Spruill said. “He would become stuck on something. If he saw something, he’d stay on it.”
Michael Benson, 54, said Mr. Redrick occasionally hinted at a violent past. “I ever tell you the time I knocked this guy out?” Mr. Benson recalled Mr. Redrick telling him.
On Wednesday, the two played several games and Mr. Redrick lost all of them, but did not seem angry about the losses, Mr. Benson said. Mr. Redrick stood up, walked over to the steps next to the busy subway entrance, and smoked a cigarette. Mr. Benson said he heard Mr. Redrick yell that he was tired of white commuters bumping into him and not saying “excuse me.”
“The next white person who runs into me, I’m going to knock them out,” Mr. Redrick said, according to Mr. Benson.
“And that’s what he did,” Mr. Benson said.
New York Times - September 10, 2013 - By Russ Buettner and J. David Goodman