In the case of Ponzu the cat, who died after a fracas in McCarren Park on Easter Sunday, police have charged two Brooklyn women with assault. On April 21 Evelyn Serrano, 42, was arrested in connection with the incident. And on April 28, Julie Rodriguez, 34, was also charged.
According to Ponzu’s owners, Chanan Aksornnan and her partner (who chose not to reveal his name), the trouble unfolded this way: the couple was in McCarren Park on that April 4 afternoon with their four pets: Mango the sun conure, a kind of parrot; Kimchi and Ponzu, the cats; and Tofu the dog. They were taking their regular walk in the park after having lunch at a nearby restaurant. Mango was on the shoulder of Aksornnan’s partner and Kimchi was in a stroller, while Tofu and Ponzu were each on a leash.
According to the Brooklyn couple, Ponzu was walking on a curb with the leash on, as he had been trained to do so, when a boy ran into the leash. The pull caused Ponzu to be dragged into the air, they said, and he fell hard. Ponzu tried to escape the leash, but according to Aksornnan, the boy didn’t stop but kept dragging the cat forward. Aksornnan says she ran to Ponzu and held him in her arms, finding that his right claws had been ripped out from being dragged.
The three-year-old cat was in visible pain at that moment, Aksornnan said, and then she realized something worse was wrong with the cat. Ponzu had been diagnosed with a heart disease and was on medication three times a day. The couple suspected that his heart condition had kicked in.
As she describes it, Aksornnan said “What did you do?” to the boy. The boy, in turn, ran back to his family, which consisted of five adults and three children, according to the couple.
That’s when, according to Aksornnan, a verbal assault began, and one of the family members yelled and cursed at her. Then the incident turned physical.
According to the police, Evelyn Serrano grabbed the victim and threw her to the ground, causing scratches and pain.
A video posted on Twitter showed that Aksornnan was punched to the ground. Aksornnan’s partner said he tried to stop the attack but got hit in the face by one of the male members of the group, breaking his nose and his glasses. The man who threw the punches then ran to his car and left.
Aksornnan said when people tried to stop the assault and asked what happened, one of the group from the boy’s side shouted that “the cat attacked my kid; she (Aksornnan) hit my son, that’s why she got this.”
One of the witnesses called the police, according to the couple, but the family left the scene before the police arrived. Ponzu was not able to make it to an animal hospital. He died at the park. The detective squad of the 94 Precinct declined to comment on the case.
At the suggestion of friends, Aksornnan says she later decided to go public to try to accelerate the police investigation. The hashtag “justice for Ponzu” went viral on social media, and after details of the incident were posted on Instagram and Twitter, some people who followed the case started to search for the boy’s family online. Some advocates on Twitter identified names, claiming that those individuals were involved in the assault.
Aksornnan and her partner say they became concerned that the online crusade was getting out of control, and said they wanted the police to do the job instead. They were grateful, they said, for the support they received through social media, but as the news went viral, misinterpretations also appeared: People on Twitter called the incident another Asian Hate crime, because Aksornnan is originally from Thailand. Yet the couple said there is no evidence linking the attack to racism.
Aksornnan said Ponzu, a British shorthair, loved exploring the world and having a good time with other members in the pet family. He is missed.