Authorities in New York have charged a couple after they were filmed racially harassing another couple and their son during a train ride. According to NBC New York, the accused couple, identified as Justin Likerman and Kristin Digesaro. turned themselves in to authorities on January 19.
Their charges include aggravated harassment as a hate crime and child endangerment. In an interview with the news outlet, Liz Edelkind said the accused couple confronted her family and two other people while they were headed home from a New York Knicks basketball game. Edelkind added they were looking for seats on the train and had asked some passengers to move. But the accused couple got agitated.
The video of the incident went viral after it was shared on social media. In the footage, Likerman and Digesaro are heard verbally harassing Edelkind and her group.
“Look straight because I’m going to get arrested tonight,” Likerman is heard saying. “Don’t look at me, don’t fucking look at me,” Likerman also says repeatedly. “These f**king foreigners ain’t taking over my country.”
The accused couple also reportedly threw beer at them. Edelkind said she believes Likerman and Digesaro got agitated because of her accent and skin color. “The couple started to verbally attack me, calling me curse words, immigrant, that I don’t pay taxes, that I have no rights in this country,” she recalled, adding that they initially had no idea there were being verbally attacked as they “had nothing to do with them.”
“They threw beer at us. My pastor and her husband, and my husband, got in the way to protect me,” she said. “How dare they assume because I look or sound different that I am not a U.S. citizen.”
Edelkind said Likerman and Digesaro alighted from the train after a conductor was notified about the incident. Responding to their subsequent arrest, Edelkind said, “I felt validated as a human, as a woman, as a U.S. citizen. Justice prevails.”
The confrontation was also recorded on a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) camera, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office used that to assist with their investigations.
“Those words that come out their mouths don’t come out unless you have hatred in your heart,” Edelkind told NBC New York. “The attack was completely unprovoked, a situation they created.”
She also said she hopes the incident will serve as a lesson to others. “I want to show people, you have a voice, use it. If you’re not using your voice to stand against those oppressing you, then you are standing with them.”
Likerman and Digesaro were employed at a Toyota dealership in Huntington. The company, however, announced the couple had been relieved of their duties in the wake of the incident, per NBC 12 The Bronx.