Homeless suspect in custody after NYPD chief chaplain mugged during morning walk

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A suspect is in custody after the NYPD's chief chaplain was mugged on his daily walk on the Upper West Side Tuesday morning.

Rabbi Alvin Kass, 84, was approached by the individual at Riverside Drive and West 107th Street at around 5:45 a.m.

The suspect said, "I'm hungry, I need food," and began rifling through the rabbi's pockets and grabbed his phone.

"And then he grabbed my other pocket, my wallet, and I think he saw my shield and I think it threw him because after that he seemed confused and he dropped the shield and ran away," Kass said.

The suspect got away empty-handed and the rabbi was not injured.

Rafael Diaz, 39, was taken into custody later Tuesday in connection to the assault. He is charged with attempted robbery and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Police say he had a crack pipe on him and is believed to be homeless.

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The rabbi says he has noticed the homelessness in the neighborhood has worsened during the pandemic.

"There is a lot of people sleeping outside which is very, very sad to see," Kass said. "Unfortunately I know we're living in very difficult times. Between this deadly pandemic and all of the social upheaval and the economic devastation."

This wasn't the first time the rabbi faced an attack. He was pushed to the ground while exercising on the Upper West Side back in June 2016.

In that incident, Kass was shoved from behind while walking on Riverside Drive at West 83rd Street.

Rabbi Kass is the longest-serving chaplain in history of the NYPD with 54 years with the department.

He says he'll be back at it tomorrow.

"I hope to continue to do my walk and go about my routine," Kass said. "I'm not gonna let some bad actor stop me."

One day prior, a female judge walking in Lower Manhattan was punched in the face.

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