Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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Uber driver with Las Vegas ties dies after being hit with hockey stick, police say

NEW YORK — An Uber driver crashed his vehicle and died over the weekend after he was hit in the head with a hockey stick by a pedestrian during a dispute in Manhattan, the police said.

The driver, Randolph Tolk, 68, died early Sunday, shortly after the altercation near Chelsea Piers. About 14 hours later, police arrested Kohji Kosugi, 39, of Manhattan, on a manslaughter charge in the attack.

Tolk’s son Andrew, 31, said his family was “stunned” by the death of its patriarch, who had talked of moving to Las Vegas to be closer to his wife, Barbara, their two sons and three grandchildren. Tolk had been expected to visit Las Vegas next month for a Jewish naming ceremony for Andrew’s 1-month-old daughter.

“I’m numb,” he said from his home in Las Vegas. “I just can’t understand how a person my age whacks a 68-year-old man with a hockey stick continuously.”

According to the police, Tolk got out of his Toyota Camry on the West Side Highway at West 20th Street late Saturday night, after a pedestrian approached the passenger side of the car and hit it with a hockey stick.

The altercation then got physical, police said, as the pedestrian crossed to the driver’s side of the vehicle, hit Tolk in the head with the hockey stick, and continued hitting him after he fell to the ground.

Tolk managed to get back into his car and drive downtown for 10 blocks before crashing into a median on the highway at Horatio Street around midnight, according to police. A man who saw the altercation followed Tolk until he crashed and called 911.

Tolk was pronounced dead at 12:40 a.m. at Lenox Hill Hospital.

The police have not revealed a motive, but a spokesman said the pedestrian appeared to be upset after Tolk nearly struck him in the crosswalk.

Kosugi was arrested at his home on East 10th Street in Greenwich Village after investigators used video to determine that he had been at Chelsea Piers before the attack. They were able to obtain his name and address from the venue, which has an ice hockey rink.

Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the New York state Federation of Taxi Drivers, called on legislators on Sunday to impose stricter penalties for assaults on seniors.

“It’s a sad story, but, unfortunately, that happens often in the city,” Mateo said at a news conference Sunday where the altercation unfolded.

Uber, in a statement, said Tolk had worked with the company for years but was logged out of the ride-hailing app at the time of the incident.

Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the city Taxi and Limousine Commission, said both Tolk and his car were licensed and in good standing.

Tolk, his son said, was born in Brooklyn and worked in the garment industry for years before it collapsed, inspecting women’s sweaters before they were shipped to retailers like Walmart and Target. The family lost their home in West New York, New Jersey, in 2010, and Tolk stayed behind while his wife moved west to be closer to their sons, Andrew and Prescott, Andrew Tolk said.

Although he maintained a post office box in West New York, Randolph Tolk lived with his aunt in Brooklyn, his son said. He borrowed a car to make a living driving for Uber, work his son said he hated but allowed him to remain in New York.

“His passion was the garment industry, and he loved New York,” Andrew Tolk said.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.