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NY Caribbean Institute outraged by attack on 85 year-old Guyanese woman in Brooklyn

Visits Victim in
Brooklyn Hospital


New York: yesterday August 20, 2008 the President of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), Rickford Burke, joined New York City Council Members Leticia James, Eric Gioia and Dr. Mathieu Eugene, as well as Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes, and Brooklyn community Leaders, at a Press Conference to condemn the attack and robbery of 85 year Brooklyn resident, Lillian France, a Guyanese-American.

In an August 20, CGID statement Burke described the attack as "heinous and cowardly." Observing that "This crime should invoke the community's collective sense of outrage and strengthen its resolve to eliminate criminals from our neighborhoods," he stressed that "It is the public's civic duty to help bring this perpetrator as well as other criminals to justice. He also exhorted the entire community to unite and join the hunt to capture France's assailant.   


The Brooklyn leaders announced a reward of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) for information leading to the arrest and/or indictment of the perpetrator. They appealed for members of the public with information about the suspect to come forward. Police has released a photograph of the suspect from surveillance tape.


CGID has endorsed a call by New York City Councilwoman Leticia James and the Group, 101 Blacks in Law Enforcement, for the installation of more surveillance cameras as well as increased Police patrol in and around buildings with a high senior citizen population.


The Institute said Lillian France is a Guyanese-American retiree who was born in Queenstown Essequibo, Guyana who immigrated to the UK in 1954 before relocating to New York in 1971, where she has lived since.


Last Thursday France was visiting her niece, Claire France, about 4:30 pm at 1015 Washington Avenue, in the Flatbush Section of Brooklyn, when she was viciously attacked and robbed of $900.00, by an unknown male, approximately in his late twenties to early thirties, New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly disclosed.


Security cameras inside the elevator show the assailant following France into the building and entering the elevator with her, only to prey on anther victim, Police said. He pretended to be a good "Samaritan" by asking her what floor she was getting off on  and then willingly pressing her floor number on the elevator control, in an apparent attempt to gain her trust.  


When the elevator stopped and its door opened at France's destination, the attacker informed her of her stop and beckoned her to exit first. As she attempted to exit, he brutally attacked her from behind and placed her neck in a vicious chokehold.


The recording shows him cruelly tightening the neck-lock on France, lifting her off of the floor in that position, until she passed out and collapsed lifelessly to the floor. He then snatched her purse containing $900.00 and left the elevator. Before he made good his escape, he turned around and grabbed her walking cane to ensure that she could not move quickly to alert anyone.


Luckily for France, the superintendent of the building saw the incident on his monitor and called 911. He however charged that the 911 operator delayed the Police and paramedics response considerably as well as the criminal's possible apprehension, by asking him lengthy, unreasonable questions - as if the call were a prank. He said that out of frustration he hung up the telephone and dashed behind the perpetrator but failed to apprehend him.   


CGID has called on Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to investigate whether the 911 operator responded appropriately or violated standard operating procedure. It is also calling for the tape recording of the 911 call to be released.   


Ms. France sustained injuries during the attack and has since been hospitalized at the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, where she is said to be recovering reasonably well.


"Any individual who is capable of perpetrating such a vicious attack on a defenseless 85 year-old woman is a sick, depraved criminal. I hope that this criminal is caught and made to face swift justice, and if convicted, is sentenced to the maximum penalty allowable by law. He deserves to be permanently locked away in jail under the harshest of conditions," Burke observed.


After the press conference Burke visited France at the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center along with the victim's and he niece Claire France.


"I visited with Ms. France for two hours earlier on Wednesday. She has suffered extreme trauma as a consequence of this ordeal. She has been hospitalized for seven days. Apart from injuries sustained during this brutal attack, the trauma has exacerbated some preexisting conditions but she is recovering well. She is in good spirits and she has been buoyed by the outpouring of support. We had a long cheerful and inspiring conversation. I hope she gets the best possible care at KJMC and that her recovery would be speedy and complete. I urge all Guyanese, Caribbean-Americans, New Yorkers and caring people of the world to keep her in their prayers," Burke said in a CGID statement.


He said that during his visit to France she received a call from York State Senator John Sampson, also of Guyanese extraction, who assured her that he will do everything in his power to ensure the NYPD captures the suspect.  


The NYPD has released a copy of the video of the attack which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aOz0w8xhUM.