Manhattan, NY – An off-duty New York City firefighter was brutally attacked by a group of six teenagers on Sunday, after he stepped in to defend an elderly couple that the group was harassing, police said.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) released a video clip of the teens on Tuesday in an attempt to identify them.
The incident occurred in front of 217 East 86th Street at approximately 9:25 a.m., the NYPD tweeted.
When the 38-year-old off-duty firefighter spotted the mob harassing the elderly couple, he intervened and told them to stop, WNYW reported.
That’s when the group attacked him, knocked him to the ground, and began punching and striking him repeatedly, police said.
"He decided to step in a say 'leave them alone'," New York Fire Department Chief Daniel Nigro told WNYW. "That's all that he did."
The firefighter was transported to Columbia Hospital after the assault.
“He broke five teeth,” Chief Nigro said. “Can you imagine falling face forward without being able to break your fall? His face…broke the fall.”
He also suffered a concussion, and doctors used 25 stitches to close up a gash on his head, the New York Daily News reported.
“He saw somebody in trouble and he thought he could help them, and now he’s suffering for it,” the firefighter’s mother told the paper on Tuesday.
“He’s missing his teeth, and he’s got stitches all over his face — it’s not something a mother wants to see," the victim’s mother explained. "My husband was a firefighter. You know what to expect, but you don’t think something like this is going to happen, something senseless like this.”
Police said they want to question the three females and three males seen in the video clip, WNYW reported.
They are all described as being between 15 and 17 years old.
"I'm concerned that there are still people around who think this type of behavior is appropriate,” Nigro told the news outlet. “They were youngesters. There are other ways to be out having a good time other than harassing people and seriously injuring one of our brave firefighters.”
The off-duty firefighter’s mother said she is proud that her son stepped in to help others, despite the risk to himself.
“He was off-duty, but he was acting to keep the peace of New York City, which is his job," she told the New York Daily News. "Even though he’s hurt, I’m extremely proud of him. He was trying to help somebody else, and anybody would be proud of a son who did that. But my heart breaks to look at him.”