It happened just before 8:30 a.m. on East 41st Street in Midtown, where police say the 59-year-old victim approached the man, 25-year-old Xavier Israel, who was lying on the ground.
As the victim placed the coat, Israel allegedly got up and forcibly threw the victim to the ground, taking his wallet and attempting to flee the scene.
The victim attempted to recover his property but was punched numerous times and pushed to the ground, police said.
Speaking in Korean, the victim — who did not want his identity used, said he had never seen the man before. But he noticed him sleeping on the street, shivering, wearing only a hoodie, and it was so cold he felt like he needed to help.
So he took off the jacket he was wearing, the same jacket he was wearing when he met us Thursday, and he covered the man.
Suddenly, he said his pants were ripped after the man yanked on them, and his wallet fell to the ground. The suspect snatched it, and that’s when the struggle ensued.
He said he continued to pursue the man until finally they crossed the street in front of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, where the victim said the man took the cash out of the wallet and stuffed it in his pants.
The victim called police and held Israel there until officers arrived. He was also treated for his injuries at the scene.
Israel is charged with robbery, grand larceny, assault, menacing, disorderly conduct, harassment and criminal possession of stolen property.
A sympathetic Mayor Eric Adams said the victim did an “admirable” thing, but the mayor believes the homeless suspect is himself “in a painful place.”
“When you see someone attack someone that helps them, that is a signal that people are in pain,” he said. “And we need to alleviate if not irradiate that pain that people are experiencing.”
Israel reportedly has two prior arrests in just the past two weeks.
Police say he randomly punched two 18-year-olds in Central Park on January 2 and punched a 49-year-old woman who offered him assistance on the Upper East Side on January 8.
In both incidents, he received desk appearance tickets.