The father of a New York Rangers fan who was arrested after sucker-punching a Tampa Bay Lightning fan after Thursday’s game at Madison Square Garden has said he cannot defend his son’s actions.
James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after Thursday’s playoff game, which New York lost.
Anastasio, a resident of Staten Island, is charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and harassment, according to NYPD sources. He is now banned from the Garden, home to both the Rangers and the NBA‘s New York Knicks, for life.
The suspect’s father, also named James Anastasio, told the New York Post that his son ‘made a choice.’ The elder Anastasio added: ‘Sometimes choices in our lives have consequences.’
‘There’s nothing to defend. It is what it is. We’ll wait for him to come home, we’ll pick him up, and everything’s OK. Tomorrow’s a new day.’
The unidentified victim suffered pain and bruising, according to the New York Post. Anastasio was arraigned on Friday night.
The suspect’s landlord told NBC New York that Anastasio ‘didn’t seem violent’ and that he was shocked by the video.
James Anastasio, 29, was arrested after sucker-punching a Tampa Bay Lightning fan after Thursday’s game
Anastasio is seen arriving at New York City Criminal Court after the unprovoked attack
Anastasio’s lawyer also said: ‘For now, we want to assure James is released back to his family in a timely manner, then will turn our attention to defending him in court’
Anastasio’s attorney Jason Goldman told DailyMail.com in a statement: ‘We are in the very beginning stages of gathering and learning all the facts.’
‘For now, we want to assure James is released back to his family in a timely manner, then will turn our attention to defending him in court,’ he added.
Shocking video of the incident, viewed more than 3.5 million times on Twitter, shows the disgruntled Rangers fan whirling around and punching a supporter of the opposing team as spectators exit the Garden.
In the video, one fan can be heard yelling at Anastasio: ‘What is wrong with you?’ While another exclaims: ‘Oh no!’
The victim’s brother, who was not identified, told NBC New York that the pair were merely trying to get out of the Garden when they got separated after a beer was thrown at them.
He continued: ‘The next thing I know, I look over, I hear a thud on the ground and it’s my brother laying there. The thud. You can hear it in the video. I’ll never get that sound out of my head. My brother’s head hitting the ground.’
The victim flew back home out of New York on Friday morning.
James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man (left in red shirt) seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after Thursday’s playoff game
The Lightning fan was knocked out cold but reportedly refused medical attention at the scene
It’s unclear from the video whether the pair exchanged words before the attack.
Police said that Anastasio tried to run away from the scene, but was detained by a 37-year-old witness, who was also punched in the face, according to New York Daily News.
Cops responded and placed Anastasio under arrest inside Madison Square Garden around 11:45 pm local time. The Lightning fan refused medical attention at the scene.
Management at the Garden issued a statement on Friday saying that the ‘assailant’ would be banned from the venue for life, without naming Anastasio.
‘Last night, an abhorrent assault took place against a Tampa Bay fan at the conclusion of the game — followed by a second assault against an individual who bravely intervened,’ the statement said.
‘All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden,’ the venue added.
The Garden management said that the assaulted fan had been provided with medical care and would get ongoing support from its guest services team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers fight during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden
Thursday’s game was Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals, and the Lightning beat the Rangers 3-1.
Ondrej Palat’s tip-in snapped a tie with 1:50 remaining in regulation after a New York turnover.
Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series three games to two and can secure its third straight trip to the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night, if they win a home game against the Rangers.
The Lightning are 6-1 at home in the postseason while the Rangers head into their sixth elimination game with a 2-7 road mark in the playoffs.
Tensions were obviously running high on the ice at Thursday’s game, which erupted into a brawl between players after the final horn.
Players on both teams dropped gloves after Lighting star Nikita Kucherov flung a meaningless shot off Rangers defenseman Adam Fox.
Coming off a third consecutive loss and now facing elimination in Saturday’s Game 6, Fox took exception and retaliated by slashing the Russian-born winger.
Kucherov was naturally displeased and within a moment, several melees broke out simultaneously around the ice.
The main event featured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Rangers star Alexis Lafreniere – a pair of former first-overall draft picks.
The incident at the Garden comes as New York City crime remains high. Overall crime is up almost 40 percent in 2022 compared to the same period last year.
Every violent crime, except murder and shootings are up in the Big Apple with felony assault up 19 percent, burglary up 32 percent, and robbery up 39 percent.
Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home
Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home.
In a video of the attack released by the NYPD, Victor Vega is seen walking alongside two men before the attack. After being senselessly punched, he is seen falling on his back.
One of the two attackers, who are still on the run, is seen rifling through Vega’s pockets, removing something f and then passing it to his accomplice.
The pair are then seen casually walking away as Vega lies lifeless in the street.
Police have ruled his death a homicide and continue to search for the two suspects.
Every violent crime, except murder, is also up in the Big Apple with felony assault, burglary, and robbery up significantly at 19, 32, and 39 percent, respectively.