Police believe string of assaults may be related

A homeless man was beaten and robbed on the railroad tracks just west of Marcy Avenue in Riverhead, police said. (Credit: Carrie Miller)
A homeless man was beaten and robbed Sunday on the railroad tracks just west of Marcy Avenue in Riverhead, police said. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Riverhead Town police are investigating the violent assault and robbery of a Hispanic man in the downtown Riverhead area on Sunday.

With yet another victim in the hospital — and no arrest as of Wednesday morning — police are looking into whether a string of assaults on Hispanic men so far this year may be an emerging pattern, and are appealing to state police for help. 

Sunday’s victim is a 33-year-old homeless man, who suffered serious head injuries after he was beaten and robbed on the Long Island Rail Road tracks just west of Marcy Avenue, police said.

The victim told police that two or three men beat him in the face and head with an unknown object, “possibly a nearby tree branch,” and robbed him of $400 cash, according to a report.

The victim, bleeding heavily from the face and head, was found shortly before 1 p.m. at the BP gas station on West Main Street in Riverhead, police said.

It is the fifth assault on a Hispanic person in the downtown Riverhead area this year, said Riverhead Town police Chief David Hegermiller.

“It’s definitely an issue that we have to look at, and we have been looking at it. We’re trying to figure out the right way to deal with it,” he said.

Last month, police said a Hispanic man was robbed at gunpoint on Griffing Avenue by four strangers who reportedly punched the victim several times in the body, stealing about $400 before fleeing the area.

On Feb. 21, another man who suffered significant injuries to the face and head told police he had been mugged at the intersection of Marcy Avenue and Pulaski Street. He was found on the side of the road and unable to speak.

Other similar incidents have also been reported.

Chief Hegermiller said his department is doing “a map-up to try and figure out any patterns,” adding that he will meet with state police next week to brainstorm ideas for a plan of action.

“I have ideas that I don’t want to discuss at this point,” he said, adding that state police might have additional resources that could aid in the effort.

Police believe some of the attacks could be the work of the same assailants.

“I would say for sure that there is repeat as far as the suspects are concerned,” Chief Hegermiller said.

When asked if additional patrols would be done in the Polish Town area, the chief said, “We’re going to take care of it. We’re going to fix it for sure.”

He said that he would be reaching out to the local Hispanic community through the North Fork Spanish Apostolate to attempt to provide them with safety tips.

Among the tips he had to offer: Don’t travel alone. Travel with other people and keep your cellphone handy.

“If you feel like you’re walking into a group of people that you’re suspicious of, there’s no reason you can’t notify us,” Chief Hegermiller said.

The victim of Sunday’s attack was transported to Stony Brook University Medical Center and admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit with a fractured skull and possible internal injuries, officials said.

Authorities are asking anyone who may have witnessed that incident to call police at 631-727-4500, ext. 332.


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With Jennifer Gustavson