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Queens Chronicle

Queens Village man blinded in attack

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Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:00 am

Latchman Ramnarin, 32, was undergoing treatment for severe depression at a group residence in Queens Village and doing well. He had received training to become a maintenance man and planned to leave the facility soon and look for work when the unthinkable happened. His roommate blinded him.

“He mounted him from behind, reached around and dug his fingers into both eyes and gouged them out,” the victim’s lawyer, Michael Grossman, said Monday.

Ramnarin had been living at the PSCH residence for several months before his roommates, defendant Jason Wallace and another man, moved in. Within a few weeks, the alleged perpetrator became “menacing, aggressive and out of control,” Grossman said.

Wallace, who weighs close to 300 pounds, allegedly threatened Ramnarin numerous times, making statements like “I am going to kill you” and “I’ll break your bones because I hate Indian people,” before finally attacking him on April 23, Grossman said.

The case is not being prosecuted as a hate crime because there is no mention of the defendant making racial slurs in the criminal complaint, the Queens district attorney’s office said. Grossman could not confirm whether the “I hate Indians” remark or anything similar was said immediately prior to the attack.

“The man is mentally ill,” Grossman said of Wallace. “I don’t look at this as a racial incident primarily. It’s very early in the investigation and I’m not prepared to go that route.”

Ramnarin is of Guyanese descent. Both men previously had been patients at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, but did not know each other prior to living together at the PSCH residence.

A contractor, possibly either an exterminator or repairman, discovered the gruesome scene and called police after Wallace answered the door covered in blood. He was charged with assault with intent to disfigure, and has pleaded not guilty. “I’m certain he is going to plead insanity,” Grossman said. “I don’t know what other defense he could possibly have.”

Ramnarin was taken to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he remained for about one week and underwent multiple surgeries in an attempt to save his vision, but they were unsuccessful.

Doctors were able to re-attach one eye “purely for cosmetic purposes,” Grossman said, but Ramnarin is completely blind. “He was in intense pain as much as emotional shock,” he added. “When the police found him he was bleeding profusely.”

Ramnarin now lives with his parents in Ozone Park. Since both work, he is cared for by a home health aide, seven days a week.

Grossman says Ramnarin’s fragile mental state has been shattered by the incident. “He’s a basket case,” the lawyer said, adding “I don’t think he accepts it. He thinks he’s going to get his vision back, but it’s not going to happen. The doctors say it’s over.”

Now, Ramnarin passes the time listening to the television and sitting out in the summer sun. Grossman, like his client, cannot believed what happened. “I was stunned,” he said. “I was in disbelief for a moment until it sunk in.”

Ramnarin is suing Wallace and PSCH, the agency that runs the home, but Grossman would not specify the damages he is seeking in the claim filed in Queens County Supreme Court last week. He did say that Ramnarin had notified the people running the residence about his fears prior to the incident, but nothing was done and that is “the crux of the lawsuit,” Grossman said.

PSCH, whose name stands for Promoting Specialized Care and Health, is a nonprofit agency that serves more than 8,500 clients downstate and in New Jersey, offering treatment, rehabilitation and vocational services for people with developmental, psychological and behavioral disabilities. PSCH declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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