31-year old Lashawn Marten is charged with assault. His case was sent to a Manhattan grand jury to decide whether the charges should be upgraded.
The victim, Jeffrey Babbitt, was punched in the face while walking through Union Square Park Sept. 4, and died on Monday after being in a coma for days.
After Babbitt was struck, he fell backward and hit his head.
Marten allegedly said he was going to "punch the first white man I see".
Investigators say Marten punched the man and then attacked two other men who tried to help Babbitt. The NYPD's hate crimes unit is investigating.
Amateur video shows police and paramedics doing everything they can to help Babbitt, who didn't see the assault coming because witnesses say he didn't do anything wrong.
Police handcuffed Marten just inches away from the bleeding man.
"The guy got agitated for some reason or other another and he said, 'The next white person that bumps into me without saying excuse me, I'm going to knock him out,'" witness Michael Benson said.
"That was uncalled for," Benson said. "That guy was minding his business. He shouldn't have even got hit like that, and he's an old man. That's not right."
Sources say Marten was playing chess just before the assault. But other players say they don't remember seeing him until he made that threat that they wish they had taken seriously.
"You're doing that for kicks because you're some kind of twisted individual, or something is absolutely off," chess player Sergio Torres said. "A person like that shouldn't be roaming the streets. If anything, I would charge him with the highest sentence."