The Levittown man suspected of assaulting an Florida utility worker out of anger over post-Hurricane Sandy blackouts is now believed to have attacked the victim for allegedly urinating near the suspect’s car, Nassau County police said.
Thomas Libretto was arrested Tuesday and charged with assaulting the Lakeland Electric lineman, John Applewhite, outside Texas Roadhouse in East Meadow on Friday night. Both men are 34. Police said more information was developed in the case after witnesses came forward.
“The victim did not tell us the entire story,” Inspector Kenneth Lack, the chief police spokesman, told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.
Libretto was leaving the restaurant just after 7 p.m. Friday when he saw Applewhite urinating near his car and yelled something at him, Lack said.
Applewhite shouted back and kicked gravel at Libretto’s BMW, Lack said, causing the suspect to exit his car, take off his jacket and allegedly punch the utility worker in the face, breaking his jaw and cheekbone.
After the altercation, Libretto left the scene and Applewhite was taken to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment.
The investigation into the altercation was difficult because the other utility workers there at the time were going back to Florida. There were also no surveillance videos outside the restaurant.
Police don’t expect Applewhite to be charged for urinating in public or for his role in the fight, Lack said.
Libretto didn’t help his cause by leaving the scene of the fight, police said. Lack noted that the “proper recourse” would’ve been for him to call the police after Applewhite kicked gravel at his car.
Applewhite has since been transferred to a hospital in Tampa, Fla. where he has been giving interviews to local media outlets saying he was caught off guard when a man started yelling at him, thinking he was “just asking about his power.”
“There is always a bad apple,” Applewhite told The Lakeland Ledger. “For the most part, these people were great and they really treated us with respect.”
Libretto will be arraigned later this month.
More than 15,000 utility workers have been helping the Long Island Power Authority restore electricity after most of LI was blacked out during Sandy.