A student at the New Roots Charter School was reportedly assaulted by an adult male outside the State Theatre on Wednesday at about 10:30 a.m., according to witnesses and police radio reports.
Local resident Devlin Laurenson said that he saw a young male who looked “like he was about 14” shooting rubber bands on the corner W. State Street and N. Geneva Street. When the rubber bands hit a van parked at a stop sign, Laurenson said, an adult male who appeared to be in his 40s got out of the van and punched 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 the man 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.
"A 14 year old getting beat up by a 40 year old? That's new," Laurenson said.
Police were soon in pursuit of the man, according to witnesses and radio reports.
“Could you dispatch IPD to State Theatre? I just witnessed a physical assault,” a community auxiliary officer said on the radio report, sounding audibly panicked. Another officer then says on the radio that he can “probably catch the suspect vehicle.”
The dispatcher later identifies the individual who allegedly committed the crime as a white male wearing a “gray sweatsuit with some sort of tattoo or marking under his eyes.”
Though she did not see the assault, Jenny McGuire, owner of an antique store on the block, strongly criticized Ithaca Police for failing to protect her and the neighborhood, adding that the safety of the block 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 hears reports of crimes in nearby stores and believes the presence of a “loud, swearing crowd” makes it difficult for local businesses to thrive. The 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 sadden her and make her doubt the future of the neighborhood.
“I think downtown Ithaca is going to hell in a handbasket,” she said.