New York City Police Launches Manhunt for Thug Who Attacked 101-Year-Old Woman

Here's a tip for the guy who beat up a 101-year-old woman in a walker and took off with her purse: Get out of New York.

The vicious mugging, caught on surveillance tape, has sparked outrage in a city where people are accustomed to hearing about strange and violent crimes. Police have launched an all-out manhunt, but it's not just the cops who want the villain's head.

"I could hold him, and let the woman beat him up," said Joe Sarju, 59, who lives in the Queens neighborhood where the attack occurred. "I'd love to beat him, but then they would lock me up."

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The heartlessness of the March 4 attack is clearly conveyed on the grainy, black-and-white videotape, which has now been broadcast well beyond New York.

In it, 101-year-old Rose Morat is trying to leave her apartment building to go to church. The mugger, a man who looms over the senior citizen and is holding onto a bicycle, pretends to help her get through the vestibule.

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Then, he turns to grab Morat's head and delivers three hard punches to her face, and swipes her purse. The dazed victim tries to reach for her purse when the mugger hits her again, pushing her and her walker to the ground.

He got away with $33 and Morat's house keys. She suffered a fractured cheekbone and spent time in the hospital. The attack didn't break Morat's spirit, though: She has said in the days since that if she had been just a bit younger, she would have gone after the guy.

"I'm a very strong woman," she said. "I've been that way my whole life."

The NYPD has assigned dozens of detectives to the case and shown every uniformed officer in the city the surveillance video. Police are canvassing nearby residential buildings and businesses.

They believe the same man also attacked 85-year-old Solange Elizee, another neighborhood resident, shortly after robbing Morat. Elizee suffered facial cuts and bruises. The mugger took off with $32 and her wedding band.

Based on the victims' memories and the tape, police say the attacker is a black man in his 30s, about 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds. He wore a winter jacket with a fur-lined hood. The police department said Tuesday there were no new developments.

Several posters have been placed throughout the generally quiet Queens neighborhood, urging anyone with information to call with tips. So far, at least $18,000 in reward money is being promised by several sources, including the police.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in the state Senate proposed making it a felony to assault anyone older than 70. Currently, such assaults are misdemeanors, punishable by no more than a year in jail.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers struggled for the right words to describe the attacker because expletives just don't seem adequate. In interviews and letters to newspapers, some suggested he deserves life imprisonment — or perhaps until he's 101.

John Brown, 45, said the mugger must have been on drugs, because no rational person would do such a thing. "That was a cowardly act," he fumed.

Others were reminded of the perils that could face their own parents and grandparents. Some wondered whether the mugger's mother was alive.

"My mom is 95, and if someone ever raised a hand to her ... they'd be dead," said Anthony Riccardelli, 58, who works near the crime scene.

For others, it's not just about getting revenge. Glenridge senior center in Queens decided to bring back self-defense courses after receiving dozens of phone calls on the topic after the attacks.

Susan Simonetti, the center's executive director, also had a warning for the mugger: "Pick on somebody your own age."

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