MIDTOWN, Manhattan – The same day a Muslim woman’s blouse was set on fire in midtown multiple other pedestrians were targeted by a pyromaniacal assailant, police said Wednesday as the NYPD continued its call for the public to help them catch the attacker.
Initially police said a woman wearing traditional Muslim garb had been attacked shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday outside Valentino, on Fifth Avenue. She’d been walking on the sidewalk when she felt something warm on her left arm. When she looked down, she saw her blouse was on fire, which she quickly patted out, police said.
But in the days since, investigators have learned the culprit targeted another woman minutes before that attack and two other women soon after.
It was about 8:45 p.m. Saturday when a group of five – two females, three males – approached a woman in front of 727 Fifth Ave., police said. One of the men crept up behind the woman and allegedly tried to ignite a lighter next to her leg, police said.
The target, who was not hurt, continued to walk down Fifth Avenue and the group headed the other way.
Then at about 10 p.m. two women were walking down the stairs to catch a train at the 42nd Street-Bryant Park subway station when a man put a flame near their arms, police said. They were not hurt.
During the incident outside Valentino, the woman told police she spotted a man standing next to her with a lighter in his hand. It's being investigated as a hate crime.
In the attack at the subway station, the victims said they saw a black male, about 6 feet tall with a thin build wearing a white t-shirt and holding a black backpack and a lighter. He was part of a group, police said.
That description fits for the attacker in the 8:45 p.m. incident, as well.
Anyone with information in the case is urged to call NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).