NYPD Crime Stoppers has issued a $2,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect who brutally assaulted an Irish immigrant last summer in the Bronx.
On August 21, 2011, Rostrevor, Co. Down native Paul Caldwell was walking home alone on Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn shortly after 3 a.m. when he was viciously attacked by an unknown man. Caldwell was beaten unconscious before his attacker fled the scene.
One year on, police are appealing to the public to help them find the man behind this random attack.
Little is known about the suspect, whom the police describe as a white male. A witness at the time of the assault described the assailant as being in his late twenties, wearing a white dress shirt, dark jeans and dark sneakers.
Eager to catch the man responsible, 37-year-old Caldwell, who is still recovering from the attack, has added an additional $2,000 towards the reward with funds raised by friends and family at a benefit.
“I hope they can find him,” Caldwell told the Irish Voice. “Maybe somebody has information.”
Caldwell is still unable to work after undergoing a double corneal transplant as a result of the attack.
“I go for walks but I am not allowed to do physical exercise,” he explained.
The assault occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, as Caldwell, made the short walk home to his apartment after a night out with friends. But as he approached 241st Street in the Bronx he was set upon and savagely beaten.
Caldwell recalls waking up with a face he did not recognize in St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx. During the frenzied attack the suspect broke practically every bone in Caldwell’s face.
“They told me I had been attacked and my face had been crushed,” said Caldwell, who has lived in the U.S. on and off since 1995.
“In ER they thought I had been hit by a car,” Caldwell explained.
In the days and months following, due to the severity of his facial injuries, the Irish immigrant began to lose his eyesight.
“A few days after the attack my sight started to get blurry. Over the following three months, I started to lose my sight,” Caldwell said.
The Irishman received his first corneal transplant last December and another in March. Currently, he still has 15 stitches in his eyes from major operations.
“My eyesight is better than what it was,” says Caldwell, who is now required to wear glasses at all times.
“I can make people out whenever they are up close. I can see cars and everything coming, but it’s still a small bit blurry.”
Caldwell, who is a bricklayer by trade, has been unable to work since the attack.
His medical bills have mounted to almost $300,000 since the accident, but a fundraiser organized by his friends and family in the Bronx has helped him cover the costs.
“The Irish community has been unbelievable,” said Caldwell, also paying tribute to his friends, family and his girlfriend Andrea.
In the aftermath of the attack, Caldwell sought help from the Crime Victim Support Services of the North Bronx. Their office, which employs two full-time staff, provides compensation, counseling and advice to crime victims in the North Bronx.
Stephanie Garafolo, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization, says they have witnessed an increase in criminal activity over the last year.
"In July we had we handled 54 cases in total, 22 of them were new cases," she told the Irish Voice. "And 15 of them were homicide".
At their office on Neill Avenue, a cut in public funding has put an added strain on the group’s already limited resources.
"This year has been a tough year," she reflected.
"The city is playing it down," Garafolo says. "It's not getting better. The economy is getting worse and people are getting desperate."
Their office helps victims of crime and their families who have filed a police report. But Garafolo worries that many crimes are going unreported, as some of the victims may be undocumented.
"I think some people are afraid they are going to be sent back home,” Garafolo said. "They have nothing to fear. If you are a victim of a crime, we can help."
Garafolo, who has worked closely with Caldwell, described the Irish man as a wonderful person whose high spirits have aided his recovery.
"He is not angry. He is upbeat and has reached out to help others in similar situations,” Garafolo said.
After yet another random attack in the Bronx, Caldwell was on hand to offer advice and support to Irish immigrant Alisha Jordan when the 21-year-old was also viciously assaulted on Katonah Avenue while she walked home in the early hours of the morning on July 14. A NYPD spokeswoman told the Irish Voice Jordan's assailant was arrested on July 24th and charged with felony assault, while Caldwell’s attacker remains at large.
As well as a renewed appeal for information, Caldwell has an important message for his fellow Bronx residents.