NEW YORK -- A man claimed that a Spanish tourist taunted him by calling him "gay and a Nazi" before he "lost it" and viciously attacked the man with a hammer in a New York City park, authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutors revealed the alleged confession at the suspect's arraignment in Manhattan on attempted murder charges. They also said he was using an alias – John Yoos – when he was arrested late last month, and that his real name is Douglas Epp.
A Vancouver man whose name is John C. Yoos had told The Associated Press earlier this month that after hearing news reports about the attack, he realized the suspect had stolen his identity. Yoos said he had contacted authorities in New York about his suspicions.
Epp, who remains in custody, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to an indictment charging him with attempted murder, assault and weapons possession. His attorney declined to discuss the charges and the identity issue.
The tourist, Hugo Alejandre of Barcelona, was eating lunch with his girlfriend in a park near City Hall on July 30 when a man sitting next to them pulled out a hammer and started bashing Alejandre on the head and back with it, prosecutors said. Bystanders ultimately wrestled the tool away; Alejandre was treated for a spinal fracture and deep cuts, prosecutors said.
According to court papers made public on Tuesday, Epp afterward told investigators that he was in the area looking for a job when he sat down next to the couple and began reading a newspaper. He claimed he overheard the pair talking about him.
"They had some rude words," the papers quote him as saying. "They called me a gay and a Nazi. ... That guy called me a Nazi and I just lost it."
Epp claimed he spotted a hammer sitting under a bench. He admitted grabbing it and hitting the victim on the head about 10 times, the papers say.
"This is not my demeanor, and I am ashamed this altercation occurred," he allegedly said. "Let me apologize to the couple, the police and the court for my erroneous reaction."