The suspect accused of brutally beating another man in an unprovoked attack after following him outside a New York City restaurant is back on the street, as the attempted murder charges he faced have been downgraded.
Police said Bui Van Phu was out of jail Thursday on supervised release, and he now just faces assault and harassment charges — neither of which are bail-eligible, the Bronx district attorney’s office said. It was not immediately clear why the charges were downgraded, with the DA’s office only saying they “pursued charges based on the investigation.”
The 52-year-old victim, identified by his brother as Jesus Cortez, was in front of Fuego Tipico Restaurant on 188th Street in Fordham Heights around 10:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, surveillance video showed. In jarring footage of the attack, Phu can be seen calmly walking up behind Cortez, arms folded low behind his back.
Phu, 55, then slugs him violently with his right arm, the right hook to the head immediately rendering Cortez unconscious on the ground. Phu stands over the motionless victim, looking down on him for a moment before walking back inside the restaurant. Police said there was no prior conversation or argument before the attack.
Cops say it appears Cortez had left the restaurant and stopped just outside of it when he saw several people talking. That’s when the attacker came from behind him, put on a pair of gloves and socked him in the head in the wordless attack. The victim suffered a skull fracture, broken cheekbone and brain bleeding in the attack. He was said to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Cortez’s brother, Juan, told NBC New York that his brother is “day to day. We simply ask God to help him, for the justice system to be hard-handed” against the attacker.
“My brother is in this condition because of these criminals walking the street. I don’t wish this upon anyone,” Juan Cortez said. “The only thing I want justice is for my brother. Apparently this person has a criminal record.”
Phu was said to be a convicted sex offender, and was part of a gang rape in 1994. He was released from state prison in 2015. The Bronx DA said Phu contacted his parole officer following the attack.
Motivation for the attack was not clear, and it was not clear if Phu had an attorney.