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When a Florida electrical worker got beaten up while on Long Island to restore power to communities without electricity, it made national headlines because the attacker was thought to be an irate customer left in the dark too long. What’s coming to light, however, now that there’s an arrest in the case, is that the victim may have provoked the attack.
John Applewhite, 34, from Lakeland, Florida, is the electrical line worker who suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries, as well as severe swelling after he was punched in the face around 7:15 P.M. last Friday.
After the beatdown, Applewhite went back home to Florida, where he was admitted to a hospital for surgery on his face and jaw. While there, he did a local television interview, in which he described the beating and the alleged brawler this way: “I don’t know what his intentions were. I don’t know if I was going to be robbed or if he was just upset.”
There had been speculation that the alleged attacker was upset because he’d been without electricity for so long, and that an out-of-state electrical worker like Applewhite was a convenient target. However, police said something very different on Wednesday.
“The victim did not tell us the entire story,” said Inspector Kenneth Lack at a news conference at Nassau County Police Headquarters. “And that part of the story [about an irate customer] is not the case.”
In fact, it’s not certain that Applewhite’s attacker even knew at the time that Applewhite was an out-of-state electrical worker who was in New York to help. That may be due to the interaction between the two men.
They encountered each other in the parking lot of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. Police said that Thomas Libretto, 34, of Levittown, spotted Applewhite urinating on Libretto’s late model BMW, and confronted him about it.
“They started cursing at each other,” Lack said, and then Applewhite kicked gravel on Libretto’s BMW, according to Libretto’s account to investigators. “That caused the defendant to go after the victim,” said Inspector Lack.
Before the encounter was over, Applewhite’s face was swollen from the beatdown he got from Libretto, police said, but they added that some of Applewhite’s coworkers from Florida, who were with him at the time, started beating up Libretto. He fled the scene in his BMW.
Police would not say if alcohol was involved in the incident. They did say, however, that Applewhite, who was admitted to the hospital for treatment after he returned to Florida, was not likely to face criminal charges.
Libretto, for his part, was charged with third degree assault after being arrested at his home Tuesday night. He is scheduled to be arraigned next Tuesday.