As New York Rangers fans poured out of Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, the thousands in attendance were visibly frustrated after the Tampa Bay Lightning came one game closer to the Stanley Cup finals. But for one fan from Staten Island, his anger boiled over into an incident that left a Lightning fan unconscious.
Now, after video of the incident has been viewed by millions on social media, New York police announced Friday that James Anastasio was arrested after the Lightning fan was struck and an eyewitness was hit in the face. Police say the witness tried to stop Anastasio from leaving the arena.
A New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed that Anastasio, 29, faces multiple charges, including two counts of assault, two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of harassment.
Anastasio did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.
The Rangers have squandered a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing three straight to Tampa Bay. The Lightning scored twice in the final five minutes to secure a 3-1 win on Thursday night. Toward the end of the game, two separate fights broke out between the teams.
And the fighting didn’t stop when the final horn sounded.
At 10:50 p.m., a 37-year-old male eyewitness saw two men “engage in a verbal dispute,” police told The Washington Post. It’s unclear what was said between the men. Anastasio, who was wearing a red Rangers shirt in the video, was walking in front of a 26-year-old fan in a blue Lightning jersey who has yet to be publicly identified.
Then, the video shows, Anastasio stopped walking, turned around and landed a violent left hook to the side of the Lightning fan’s face. The Lightning fan dropped his Bud Light can and fell hard in one motion, with his head bouncing off the ground and making a loud thud noise.
“The dispute escalated into a physical encounter, with one individual punching a 26-year-old male in the face, causing him to fall to the floor and lose consciousness,” police said.
In the video, Rangers fans watched in horror as Anastasio clubbed the Lightning fan and tried to walk away. Many yelled expletives as Anastasio, while others pleaded for security and medical attention for the man.
“Oh no!” one fan said.
“What … is wrong with you?” another is heard yelling at Anastasio.
While some fans could be heard on the video wondering if the man was dead, police said the Lightning fan was left temporarily unconscious and suffered “pain and bruising,” but he was not hospitalized.
When Anastasio attempted to run away, the 37-year-old witness, described by the NYPD as a good Samaritan, “tried to stop him from fleeing.” But like the Lightning fan, the witness was met with a punch to the face.
“The perpetrator punched the Samaritan in the face before fleeing,” police said.
Anastasio was eventually arrested inside Madison Square Garden at 11:45 p.m. Thursday, according to authorities.
Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Madison Square Garden, told The Post in a statement that “an abhorrent assault took place against a Tampa Bay fan at the conclusion of the game — followed by a second assault against an individual who bravely intervened.” Ravitz said Anastasio has been banned for life from MSG and all other venues associated with the company.
“We ensured the victims received appropriate medical care and have followed up to provide support from our guest services team,” she said. “All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden. This has and always will be our policy.”
A video of the incident posted to Twitter has been viewed more than 3.5 million times as of Friday afternoon. The incident, which caused “Staten Island” to trend on Friday, was met with shock from fans. Brandon London, a former NFL player who hosts a digital show for the New York Post and SNY, was baffled over a video he could only describe as “disgusting.”
“I still don’t understand why fans fight,” he said in a video. “You have zero control over the game! Why are you fighting?