Graphic Surveillance Footage – Dying Homeless Hero Ignored by 25 Onlookers

There’s wrong, and then there’s horrifying.  This week, a homeless man named Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax rescued a woman attacked at 5:40 a.m. in Jamaica, Queens.  The assailant stabbed Tale-Yax several times in the chest and fled, as did the woman.  She did not even bother to call 911 and report the attack on the man who had just saved her life.

The surveillance video above shows Tale-Yax stumbling a few steps and pitching face-forward onto the pavement.  Within a minute of the attack, the first onlooker walks through the frame, turning briefly to look at Tale-Yax, lying in a pool of blood, and then continuing on his way.  He was the first of 25 passers-by who would do so.  Many leaned down to look at the dying man, one chillingly snapped a cell phone pic, and another bent down and shook the body checking for life.  All of these people then continued about their business without dialing 911.

It would be 1 hour and 45 minutes later when firefighters discovered his body.  The worst part?  They discovered it while responding to a 911 call for a completely different, non-life-threatening emergency in the area.  That’s right, not a single person ever bothered to report Tale-Yax bleeding out his life onto the pavement.


This is such a sad commentary on how little the life of a homeless (or even “apparently” homeless, as it is impossible to conclusively tell by appearances alone) person means nowadays.  This man was a hero, and even the victim he rescued cared nothing for his plight.  Did she even give him a second thought after she escaped, after she watched him take a knife to the heart for her?  I guess not.

This story is particularly difficult for me to handle.  I visited NYC a few years ago with my family, and again a couple of months ago for the Today Show.  I loved it there.  Despite all of the stories I had heard about jaded, rude New Yawkers, I was pleased to discover that the reports had been greatly exaggerated.  Yes, the pace of things was rushed beyond anything I had ever experienced living in SoCal, but my overall experience with the natives was that the gruff exteriors hid a heart of gold.  Every single person I met was more than happy to stop and give me directions, explain the subway system, take a photo for me, etc.

I just can’t wrap my head around that kind of dichotomy – that 25 people, most of whom would have gladly taken 5 minutes to tell me where the Z train goes…wouldn’t take 30 seconds to dial 911 for a dying man.  Would it have been the same for a woman?  A man in an expensive bankers’ suit?  A wounded dog or kitten?! Would they have walked around those bodies too?  Would they have snapped cell phone photos without once thinking to call for help?  I wish I could think that this attitude towards homeless individuals as non-entities, as somehow less than people, was the exception rather than the rule.  But 25 people in a row – that speaks otherwise.  How many more would there have been, if the firefighters hadn’t stumbled across the body?  How many people would it have taken, before a single one demonstrated a shred of conscience and humanity?

This is not only shameful; it’s outrageous.  These people know perfectly well who they are, and I hope it haunts them that they didn’t even lift the smallest finger for this hero.  After putting his own life on the line for a stranger, he deserved so much more than the disgusting treatment he received in his final hour.  Less compassion than would have been shown a wounded animal on the street.  Nice.  Real nice.


  1. Vicki Day says:

    Brianna – sadly people saw a “homeless man “ they didn’t see a hero or even a fellow man honey they just see a someone they want to distance themselves from – this has shocked me to the core as it speaks volumes about humanity in general – I hope the police release close up’s of all the faces who passed call them into account.

  2. linda (soulmate47) says:

    That is just too sad that, at least, the woman he came to the rescue for didn’t have the decency to make sure he got help. What a grand final act for Hugo. What a hero.

  3. Jenn from NM says:

    Shame on her to not even call 911 for the man who just saved her life. Maybe she will think about that the next tme she needs help and no one is there to help her, karma does having a way of righting the balance.

  4. charlene says:

    Guandi said; “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged on the way it treats it’s animals.” What does that say for the way we treat our fellow HUMANS?

  5. In this story there are bad people(1 +/-25), and there are others who are apathetic(25 +/-25), and another who was good(1). I wonder why the only one who valued others is the one who was murdered, and the others are alive. It breaks my heart.

  6. Cassandra says:

    This story breaks my heart. That woman should have called the police. I mean he saved her life, so why couldn’t she have saved his. The only reason those people didn’t help him was cause he was hispanic. How Sad!!!!!!!!!!

  7. S Bond Herndon says:

    Unreal…but all too common. I’ve read NYC stories all my life, and this seems to be a somewhat common thread. In 1954, Kitty Genovese was murdered outside of her apartment building. 25 other residents heard or witnessed the attack as she screamed for help outside the building. No one called the police (911 was not available at the time). There is a psychological condition that humans tend to lock onto: where everyone thinks someone else will do what is necessary. Sad but true. This is but another example of it; a city with too many people, where the sheer volume of human contact forces a withdrawal from others around them.

  8. Looks like California might be passing a bill concerning “hate crimes” against the homeless. Here’s info @
    And, the National Coalition for the Homeless came out with a publication in 2008 reporting on “Hate, Violence, & Death on Main Street U.S.A.” as it relates to folks who are experiencing homelessness.
    As you know, Bri, one of my friends was found dead in front of the Ojai, California library while he was homeless & it is thought that may have been murder – tragic and senseless! He was an amazingly sweet & beautiful soul. I still have happy memories of us swing dancing at the Grange Hall one night…

  9. Mcecilturtle says:

    Astonishing. I’m speechless.

  10. Ya know, this story brings tears to my eyes. My heart is broken! I can’t even believe how unconcerned and heartless people are in this world. There are many wonderful caring folks who would have done the right thing, sadly they were no where to be found on this day. I know in my soul that this makes GOD very angry. Do you know if there was a memorial/burial service for this man?
    Thank you for posting, kindof, because really, I wished I didn’t know this stuff. It’s so much easier to avoid these kind of stories. I just wish we could do something!

  11. WOW. I think I’m going to cry.

  12. And I agree with Gabrielle’s heartfelt sentiments!!! I wish we could go back in time and rescue this poor man…I STILL can’t believe all those people could walk by. What if it had been THEM laying on the ground dying? Wow.

  13. I agree with S Bond. I think at such situations everyone just think someone else has already done/will do what is necessary so none bothered to call 911.
    It is a shame for the human race, people everywhere must hear about this (& read your touching writing) surely it would make them think!

  14. This is utterly disconcerting! We have sunken far. This video really has two messages for me though. The reality that people stereo type the homeless as drunken looser who have given up on life; passed out on the street, never the thought that a lot of good people loose jobs and are put in positions they can’t help, not all give up on life. The second message though is about fear. This young man got stabbed trying to help someone who didn’t even help him back! Although not excusable a lot of people today refrain fro helping from the fear of becoming a victim themselves. Sometime from the media and the police unfortunately. Its a mad world we live in!

  15. I got directed to your page from Yahoo. I’ve never commented on any web page in my whole life…. Here goes: I have had a very nice life… in a ‘rich’ neighborhood. I always felt that the way our homeless people were treated was shameful. I remember feeling uneasy as a child while hearing adults talk about how “homeless people bring it on themselves” or “work at McDonald’s at least”. I was very young, but knew that words like that were so idiotic. How can educated people say things like that? I never understood. I went to NYC when I was 19, and saw how everyone ignored homeless. My friend at NYU said to ignore them, b/c “you’ll get badgered, and you don’t really know who the ‘mentally ill’ ones are”. I felt sick when she said that. We were just in a club the night before, and she met all new people… who’s to say she might have met a “mentally ill” guy at these clubs?? I saw how much a parent’s outlook in life can reflect on a grown up child. They probably all did what she did, and ignored him… because that’s what you ‘should’ do. I bet they felt he was just putting on a show, or speaking something “mentally ill”. What a sickening world we live in. I don’t even know what to tell my son. That man will stay on my mind for a long time….

  16. jordan fowler says:

    Sounds haunting familiar to Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Some things seem to be eternally unchanging.

  17. All homeless people are not mentally ill; unfortunately it is a sterotype that persists. Look into their eyes; not at their condition or lifestyle. Everyone has a life story.

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