Police arrest man suspected of randomly punching MTA worker in Harlem

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police have arrested the man they say randomly punched an MTA worker in Manhattan. The unprovoked attack was caught on surveillance camera.

45-year-old Mike Ortiz was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with felony assault. He is homeless.

Authorities say Ortiz served four separate state prison sentences for burglary, robbery and dealing drugs.

The incident happened around 3:30 a.m. Saturday inside the 145th Street station in Harlem.

Authorities say it appeared Ortiz was upset that the 1 train wasn't running, and he confronted a group of MTA workers doing track work.

"I've seen the video," NYC Transit President Andy Byford said. "I was disgusted by it. It's appalling. You see one of our CTAs, a cleaner, they are just doing their job."

The video shows the man exchanging words with the workers, and then, he suddenly punches a 59-year-old worker in the face.

He then ducked back under the tape and fled the station.

"I'm afraid, typical of what is going on out there," Byford said. "There are far too many attacks on transit workers. Again, decent people just doing their job. We get that people get frustrated sometimes on transit, but it is never an excuse to take it out on a transit worker."

The incident has the Transit Workers Union very concerned about recent attacks. More than 100 employees were assaulted last year, and so far in 2019, workers have been stabbed, punched and even had urine thrown on them.

"We have been talking to the NYPD about having an increased presence in stations and on buses," Byford said. "For a number of reasons, but most certainly having more uniformed police in stations does give our employees that additional layer of protection and comfort. So that's one step we've already taken. Second, working with elected officials such as the congressman to push for even tougher penalties. I would like to see recidivists, including people that wantonly recklessly and brazenly attack transit staff, I'd like to see them banned from the transit system, that is certainly we are talking to legislators about."

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