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NYC ‘Squirrel Man’, who lives in a park tree, was arrested in an attack on a Post reporter

A homeless “squirrel” man who has been nesting in a Manhattan tree for months was arrested Monday for attacking a Post reporter with a giant branch and also punching a photographer, according to police and video.

The unprovoked attack took place right before the eyes of NYPD officers and city park officials who were there to “evict” the tramp from his illegal makeshift tree house in Riverbank State Park.

The suspect, identified by police as Rewell Altunaga, 44, was caught on camera just before 10 a.m. climbing down from his tree pole and up an embankment in pursuit of the Post reporter

He hit the reporter standing on the sidewalk twice with a branch, landing a hit on the side of the victim’s head.

Altunaga was then filmed taking off toward 147th Street after several police officers let him walk past them. Police officers finally handcuffed him after he also hit the post photographer with a black garbage bag full of his belongings and smashed the photographer’s camera into the ground.

The suspect is charged with assault and negligent assault, police said.

The bizarre ordeal came a day after city officials issued a day-long “clean-up notice” for the portion of the park where the man’s sky-high digs were located.

NYC's "squirrel man" was allegedly arrested for assaulting a reporter on March 27, 2022.
The NYC “Squirrel Man” has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a reporter on March 27, 2022.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post

Parks employees arrived early Monday, armed with chainsaws and heavy machinery, to demolish the man’s makeshift home.

Before the scene descended into chaos, Post Office cops confirmed they were called to evict him.

After more than an hour, a park ranger said workers felled four trees around the man’s living quarters, but crew were unable to completely remove the shelter because it required access to the adjacent Amtrak train line.

The unprovoked attack happened right before the eyes of NYPD officers and city park officials who were there "to evict" the tramp from his illegal makeshift tree house in Riverbank State Park.
The unprovoked attack took place right before the eyes of NYPD officers and city park officials who were there to “evict” the tramp from his illegal makeshift tree house in Riverbank State Park.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post

“They have to close [the train line] down, and then… [cherry-picker] Trucks can be placed on the tracks” to complete the dismantling work, the supervisor told The Post. “I hope it will be soon. I don’t want to see him up there again.”

The city’s action to remove the month-old camp came after The Post showed Mayor Eric Adams a photo of the scene during an unrelated event on Saturday.

“We don’t want that,” Hizzoner said. “That is inhumane.”

The suspect was seen descending from his tree pole and climbing an embankment to pursue the reporter on March 27, 2022.
The suspect was seen descending from his tree pole and climbing an embankment to pursue the reporter on March 27, 2022.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post

The mayor later pledged to begin dismantling homeless encampments on city streets and said his initiative would involve the Department of Homeless Services.

“Right now, people are living in inhumane conditions. They live under boxes, they live on highways,” Adams said at an event in the Bronx. “They live on train tracks where the electricity is extremely dangerous.”

He said teams of mental health professionals and homelessness services would go out and put up notices giving people in the camps 24 to 48 hours to get off the streets.

The man hit the reporter standing on the sidewalk twice with a branch, landing a hit on the side of the victim's head.
The man hit the reporter standing on the sidewalk twice with a branch, landing a hit on the side of the victim’s head.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post
The city's action to remove the month-old camp came after The Post showed Mayor Eric Adams a photo of the scene.
The city’s action to remove the month-old camp came after The Post showed Mayor Eric Adams a photo of the scene.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post
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Before the scene descended into chaos, Post Office cops confirmed they were called to evict him.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post

“After 24 to 48 hours, we will dismantle camp,” Adams said, adding that people would later be able to retrieve their personal belongings from an undisclosed location.

“People will not live in makeshift, dangerous shelters. We should never have allowed that.”

The mayor’s office said Monday that 150 camps will be attacked in a two-week operation that began March 18.

Police officers finally handcuffed him after he also hit the post photographer with a black garbage bag and smashed his camera into the ground.
Police officers finally handcuffed him after he also hit the post photographer with a black garbage bag and smashed his camera into the ground.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post
The man was being treated at the 30th Precinct but charges are pending, police sources said.
The man was being treated at the 30th Precinct but charges are pending, police sources said.
Kevin Sheehan/NNY Post

“This effort is about taking care of our employees and our public space,” Adams told the Post. “We are breaking down silos and working together across governments to keep New Yorkers safe and our streets clean.”

Heriberto Medina Jr., 41, told the Post Monday he lived under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the border of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg boroughs of Brooklyn for two years.

He watched as his blue tent was dragged away by three sanitation workers on Monday afternoon. He said he was left with his bike, a pair of backpacks and white Fila sneakers.

Medina said Adam’s statement that living in shelters is safer than living on the streets was “an absolute lie.

Medina is escorted by the police.
Heriberto Medina Jr. has lived under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for two years.
J. Messerschmidt/NY Post
Sanitary workers take away Medina's tent.
Sanitary workers dismantled Medina’s tent and removed him with his bicycle, a pair of backpacks and white Fila sneakers.
J. Messerschmidt/NY Post
NYPD and NY Department of Sanitation under the BQE at Meeker and Manhattan Avenues in Brooklyn, NY on March 28, 2022 to move the homeless.
Medina said it was safer for homeless people to live on the streets than in shelters.
J. Messerschmidt/NY Post

“I racked my brains. Someone stole my phone,” he said of his time at an East New York animal shelter in 2018. “It’s a nightmare. I’ve been to numerous animal shelters. It’s like people bidding. It’s like they’re in prison. There are people who claim things.”

Medina said he didn’t know where he would sleep tonight but added that unless he was alone, he would not go inside. He has a voucher to get an apartment when it becomes available, but “don’t know why it’s taking so long.

“When the crime rate goes up … the first people they attack are the homeless,” he said of the city. “You kick us while we’re already on the ground. We will always be vulnerable.”

Additional reporting from Steven Vago, Nolan Hicks and Sam Raskin

https://nypost.com/2022/03/28/nyc-squirrel-man-who-lives-in-park-tree-arrested-in-attack-on-post-reporter/ NYC ‘Squirrel Man’, who lives in a park tree, was arrested in an attack on a Post reporter

JACLYN DIAZ

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