Updated 8 p.m.: A 36-year-old male was arrested and charged Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a high school student outside the State Theatre, a block away from the Commons, according to an email from Mayor Svante Myrick ’09.
Michael Frey of Millport, N.Y., reportedly beat the 16-year-old student from the New Roots Charter School after one of the wads of paper students were shooting at each other stuck to the rear window of Frey’s van, Myrick said. Frey then exited the vehicle and apparently beat the student so badly that he required several stitches and may have lost consciousness.
Frey, who is being charged with assault in the third degree, was released Wednesday on an $100 bail. He was identified in police radio reports as a white male. The race of the victim has not been released.
Local resident Devlin Laurenson said that he saw the teenager shooting rubber bands — which Myrick said were being used to launch the wads of paper — on the corner W. State Street and N. Geneva Street. He also witnessed Frey get out of the van and punch the boy several times in the face.
“He was bleeding from his mouth, stumbling — it looked like his jaw got busted,” Laurenson said, adding that Frey soon jumped back into the van and sped off. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Laurenson said that the boy's friends then picked him up and, supporting him on each side, carried him back to the New Roots school.
Myrick said police soon caught Frey, who radio reports indicate was wearing a “gray sweatsuit with some sort of tattoo or marking under his eyes.”
“I'm happy to report that IPD responded immediately and apprehended the suspect before they got more than three blocks away in their van,” Myrick said.
Though she did not see the assault, Jenny McGuire, owner of an antiques store on the block, strongly criticized Ithaca Police for failing to protect her and the neighborhood, adding that the safety of the street had deteriorated.
“It’s a really rough block … I’m not at all surprised; it saddens me, but I’m not surprised,” McGuire, who owns Bluebird Antiques, said.
She said she recently had her store broken into with a crowbar, regularly heard reports of crimes in nearby stores and believed the presence of a “loud, swearing crowd” made it difficult for local businesses to thrive.
These problems were exacerbated when an Ithaca Police Officer named Eric, who usually patrolled the block was reassigned, she said.
“God I miss him — he was such a presence… if there was a mob of intimidating people on the block, he’d make them move on,” she said.
But she said that more than causing her to be angry, incidents like these saddened her and made her doubt the future of the neighborhood.
“I think downtown Ithaca is going to hell in a handbasket,” she said.