The New York Rangers fan who sucker-punched a rival fan at Thursday’s game told cops he feared he would go viral after being caught on camera, saying: ‘Oh f**k, this may be on the internet.’
Staten Island man James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after Thursday’s playoff game, which New York lost.
He was arrested late on Thursday night and has made his first court appearance, wearing the same red Rangers shirt and grey sweatpants from the previous night.
He was released on bond last night and will return to court on June 29.
The victim has not been identified since the attack.
It’s unclear exactly what prompted the Anastasio to snap. Video shows the pair walking down the concourse at Madison Square Garden after the Lightning defeated the Rangers.
The Lightning fan appeared to be chanting something to taunt the rival fans. Anastasio was walking out of the venue with a friend when he turned around and punched him.
He then fled the scene as dozens of worried fans surrounded the victim. In the video, one can be heard saying: ‘He’s dead.’
Anastasio then punched a Good Samaritan who tried to stop him from fleeing.
The victim was declined medical attention after regaining consciousness. He and his brother flew back home to Florida yesterday morning.
James Anastasio is shown in court on Friday night after being arrested for brutally sucker-punching a rival fan at the New York Rangers game on Thursday
The viral video shows Anastasio in red turning to punch the Lightning fan in blue as they made their way out of Madison Square Garden on Thursday
The Lightning fan was knocked out cold but reportedly refused medical attention at the scene after he regained consciousness
The brother, who does not want to be named, told NBC: ‘We were just trying to get out of there like everyone else and then, all of a sudden, a beer was thrown at us, and me and my brother kind of separated in that second.
‘The next thing I know, I look over, I hear a thud on the ground and it’s my brother laying there.
‘The thud. You can hear it in the video. I’ll never get that sound out of my head. My brother’s head hitting the ground.’
Anastasio’s father told The New York Post last night that he couldn’t defend his son’s actions.
Anastasio, shown last night in court, was still wearing his Rangers shirt and sweatpants from Thursday’s game
Anastasio is seen arriving at New York City Criminal Court after the unprovoked attack
‘Sometimes choices in our lives have consequences. There’s nothing to defend. It is what it is. We’ll wait for him to come home, we’ll pick him up, and everything’s OK. Tomorrow’s a new day.’
The suspect’s landlord told NBC New York that Anastasio ‘didn’t seem violent’ and that he was shocked by the video.
Anastasio’s attorney Jason Goldman told DailyMail.com in a statement: ‘We are in the very beginning stages of gathering and learning all the facts.’
‘For now, we want to assure James is released back to his family in a timely manner, then will turn our attention to defending him in court,’ he added.
Management at the Garden issued a statement on Friday saying that the ‘assailant’ would be banned from the venue for life, without naming Anastasio.
‘Last night, an abhorrent assault took place against a Tampa Bay fan at the conclusion of the game — followed by a second assault against an individual who bravely intervened,’ the statement said.
‘All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden,’ the venue added.
The Garden management said that the assaulted fan had been provided with medical care and would get ongoing support from its guest services team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers fight during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden
Thursday’s game was Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals, and the Lightning beat the Rangers 3-1.
Ondrej Palat’s tip-in snapped a tie with 1:50 remaining in regulation after a New York turnover.
Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series three games to two and can secure its third straight trip to the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night, if they win a home game against the Rangers.
The Lightning are 6-1 at home in the postseason while the Rangers head into their sixth elimination game with a 2-7 road mark in the playoffs.
Tensions were obviously running high on the ice at Thursday’s game, which erupted into a brawl between players after the final horn.
Players on both teams dropped gloves after Lighting star Nikita Kucherov flung a meaningless shot off Rangers defenseman Adam Fox.
Coming off a third consecutive loss and now facing elimination in Saturday’s Game 6, Fox took exception and retaliated by slashing the Russian-born winger.
Kucherov was naturally displeased and within a moment, several melees broke out simultaneously around the ice.
The main event featured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Rangers star Alexis Lafreniere – a pair of former first-overall draft picks.
The incident at the Garden comes as New York City crime remains high. Overall crime is up almost 40 percent in 2022 compared to the same period last year.
Every violent crime, except murder and shootings are up in the Big Apple with felony assault up 19 percent, burglary up 32 percent, and robbery up 39 percent.
Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home
Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home.
In a video of the attack released by the NYPD, Victor Vega is seen walking alongside two men before the attack. After being senselessly punched, he is seen falling on his back.
One of the two attackers, who are still on the run, is seen rifling through Vega’s pockets, removing something f and then passing it to his accomplice.
The pair are then seen casually walking away as Vega lies lifeless in the street.
Police have ruled his death a homicide and continue to search for the two suspects.
Every violent crime, except murder, is also up in the Big Apple with felony assault, burglary, and robbery up significantly at 19, 32, and 39 percent, respectively.