Around 10:50 p.m On Thursday, after the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning game, police said two men got into a verbal argument that quickly became physical.
One of the men – James Anastasio – allegedly punched the other in the face, causing him to fall to the ground and lose consciousness, police said.
The suspect then tried to flee, police said, but was pursued by a man they described as a Good Samaritan, who Anastasio also allegedly punched in the face, police said. Both victims refused medical attention and Anastasio was immediately arrested, they said.
The incident was partially captured in cellphone video posted online.
Anastasio, 29, was arraigned around midnight Friday and charged with two counts of third-degree assault, two attempted third-degree assaults and two counts of second-degree molestation, Manhattan prosecutors told CNN.
He was granted supervised release and is scheduled to appear in court on June 29, the prosecutor’s office added.
Jason Goldman, Anastasio’s defense attorney, said his client “repeatedly attempted to defuse and de-escalate the situation, a situation in which he was vastly outnumbered and eventually threatened by a group of highly intoxicated individuals.”
“We believe Garden surveillance will confirm the events immediately prior to the short viral clip captured by the cell phone camera,” Goldman said. “While he is eager for the rest of his story to come out, he also trusts and respects the court process. We are confident that James will be confirmed once all the facts come out.”
MSG bans alleged attacker for life
“All guests – no matter which team they support – should feel safe and respected at The Garden. This has always been and always will be our policy,” MSG said in the statement.
Robert Joseph Kaplan captured the incident on camera. Kaplan told CNN that while he’s been to a lot of games in the past, he’s never seen anything like it.
Prior to the alleged attack, Kaplan said he saw Anastasio and another man angrily insult Tampa Bay Lightning fans as they descended the venue’s escalators. He described the insults as “violent” and claimed there was a lack of safety on the escalators.
An MSG spokesman told CNN the suspected attacker was taken into custody within 30 seconds by NYPD security detail and MSG security. As of Thursday night, 183 uniformed MSG security officers, 14 supervisors, 18 NYPD officers and two NYPD sergeants were on paid detail inside the venue, the spokesman said.
Amid the alleged insults, Kaplan said an empty beer mug was thrown in the direction of Anastasio and the man he was dating. He said the two waited for the victim and confronted him, asking him if he was the person who threw the cup. At that point, Kaplan said he pulled out his cell phone to record the scene because he sensed something bad was about to happen.
“I thought that was pretty gross,” Kaplan told CNN. “Something like this must not happen.”