Man in Times Square Gives Away Free Hugs, Punches Woman Who Refuses to Tip

By Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
May 13, 2016 Updated: May 13, 2016

A woman visiting from Canada was punched in the face in Times Square, New York, by a man offering “free hugs” after she refused to tip him, police said. 

Jermaine Himmelstein, 24, carries a cardboard sign reading “Free hugs” and is known around Times Square as “the hug guy.” But the 22-year-old tourist from Canada, Ottawa, wasn’t familiar with him at all. 

As she was taking pictures with a group of friends on Broadway near 45th Street, Himmelstein approached them and offered the woman a hug at around 10:30 a.m, according to CBS New York

The woman, who was later identified by police as Sophie Violene Dauvois, accepted the “free hug,” but declined the $5 tip the man requested—that’s when she was punched in the face by Himmelstein, police said.

“(She was) assaulted by the ‘free hugs’ guy in Times Square after she refused to give him a tip,” said NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill.

Himmelstein ran off, police said. But the victim had taken a photo of him after the incident—as evidence. She showed it to police, who later found Himmelstein in the area, police said.

Due to the assault, the woman had suffered a black eye, as well as cuts and bruises; she was taken to Mount Sinai West Hospital for treatment. 

Related Coverage
Man in Times Square Gives Away Free Hugs, Punches Woman Who Refuses to TipHugs for Hire

Himmelstein was charged the night of May 11 with attempted robbery and fraudulent accosting after the Thursday afternoon incident.

“He is no stranger to this,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said.

The New York Daily News reported Himmelstein has been arrested 16 times since 2012.

Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot