An ex-con described as “next level crazy” has been apprehended for an ugly beatdown of a beloved, 90-year-old East Village candy store owner, police said Saturday.
Luis Perozo, 39, was charged with assault after he was grabbed up by cops late Friday, NYPD officials said.
Perozo was wanted for attacking Ray Alvarez, who has owned Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A since 1974. Alvarez was left with a black eye and a gnarly wound under his left ear following the early-Tuesday attack.
Detectives told Alvarez about the arrest late Friday, said Gabe Thorne, who works at the shop and was also a victim in the 3 a.m. assault.
“Last night was a party over here,” Thorne, 44, told the Daily News Saturday. “We’re very relieved… extremely relieved that everyone’s done their job and we’re going to keep doing our jobs and this guy stays where he needs to be.”
Alvarez was resting at home Saturday, but was “doing great,” Thorne said. “He is extremely optimistic.”
Perozo lives near the candy store. Dressed in a black knit hat, a blue coat and black sweatpants with red stripes running along the side, Perozo denied attacking Alvarez as he was escorted out of the 9th Precinct stationhouse in handcuffs Saturday.
“No!” he said when asked if he committed the crime.
Deputy Inspector Ralph Clement, the commanding officer of the 9th Precinct, announced the arrest on Twitter.
“We informed Ray that we identified and apprehended the perpetrator responsible for this heinous crime,” Clement posted “Special thanks to Warrants Section, 9th Detective Squad, and Intelligent Division.”
Perozo and a second man approached Alvarez near E. 7th St. wanting to sell him some La Croix seltzer, cops and witnesses said. When the elderly merchant declined, the suspect threatened to kill him and whipped the nonagenarian in the face with a belt that had a rock affixed to the buckle.
One of the two men also punched Thorne as he tried to intervene, Alvarez told The News.
“One of them hit [my employee] in the chest and the other guy said, ‘Hold this, I want to kill this bastard,’” recalled Alvarez. “He took something that looked like a belt with a stone on it and he swung and hit me in the head. I fell down on the floor outside — I was bleeding and bleeding.”
Perozo ran off, but was caught on surveillance cameras two blocks away pushing a purple shopping cart filled with items, cops said.
The assailant evaded authorities for three days, but Alvarez was back at his store in just a few a few hours.
“I was shaken up really bad, but I came back,” he said. “I had an ice cream delivery and I had a lot of things to do.”
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Thorne said one of the attackers asked Alvarez, “Do you believe in Satan?” right before the beating.
“Ray didn’t really know what he was talking about,” Thorne said. “And the guy was really weird… It was next-level crazy.”
Once the surveillance photos of Perozo were released Thursday, people in the neighborhood started recognizing him, Thorne said, speculating that the assailant may be mentally ill.
“He’s been all around,” he said. “There’s just a lot of mental health [issues] and a lot of bad intentions for others. When something like this happens, you have to grieve and recognize this is our reality.”
Perozo has an extensive criminal history dating back to the early 2000s, but most of his arrests were for criminal mischief and petty larceny, police sources said. He served five years in prison after he was convicted for an assault in the Bronx in 2003 and was paroled in 2008, according to court records. Four years later his parole ended.
Before he was arrested for pummeling Alvarez, he was busted on criminal mischief and petty larceny charges in August 2021, cops said.
Rebecca White, Thomas Tracy