New Jersey - Orthodox Lakewood Resident Steps Up To Help Homeless Man Subjected To Cruel Prank
Last updated on: January 24, 2016 10:58 AM
Lakewood, NJ - A disturbing incident that had a homeless Lakewood man pouring hot coffee on himself to earn a few dollars has yielded positive results, with two crowdfunding campaigns set up to raise money for the man and a member of the township’s Orthodox Jewish community coming forward to offer the 65 year old a shopping trip, food and shelter during the massive storm that dumped approximately two feet of snow on Lakewood this weekend.
The incident in question took place at approximately 2 PM on January 19th when an Orthodox Jewish young man approached a homeless man later identified as Ronald Leggatt and offered him $5 to pour a cup of hot coffee on his head.
According to Daily News reports, Leggatt, who was desperate for money and had been scouring the area near the Singins gas station on Cedarbridge Avenue for discarded lottery tickets in the hopes of finding a winner, agreed to the bizarre request, which was videotaped by the young man.
Leggatt agreed to pour a second cup of coffee on his head, receiving a handful of loose change for his efforts, noting later in a videotaped interview that he had actually poured both cups of coffee away from his head, deliberately missing himself.
Lakewood resident Carlos Mejia, who observed the entire incident, shared the story on Facebook , saying that at first he thought he was observing an act of kindness but was appalled to see that what he was witnessing was nothing more than a tasteless joke. Mejia said that he was outraged and confronted the young man, who began apologizing immediately.
Mejia’s angry post complained of an abuse of power in Lakewood by the township’s Orthodox Jews, noting that he had wanted to call the police but was told by the young man that with members of the Jewish community in positions of authority in the local government his attempts would be fruitless.
Mejia’s Facebook post has been shared over 2,300 times, catching the attention of the news media and the Lakewood Police. A statement released by the Lakewood Police said that the incident was determined to be a display of poor judgment but involved no criminal activity since both Leggatt and the unnamed young man were willing participants and no injuries had been sustained.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s office was called in to investigate Mejia’s claims that the incident was being recorded so that it could be featured on an Orthodox Jewish website showing members of the Jewish community mocking the homeless and playing jokes on them. Those claims were later proved to be inaccurate.
“This (incident) was not an organized effort in that community (the Orthodox community) to abuse the homeless,” Al Della Fave, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said in an interview with the Brick Patch website.
Della Fave said that a concerted effort by his office’s High Tech Crimes Unit found no evidence of any such site and that the video was never posted on any site.
“What they found is that this was not an organized effort,” said Della Fave. “There was no group conspiracy.”
Leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community have told authorities that the young man is known to suffer from mental issues and have issued statements saying that the incident was intolerable.
Della Fave said that the young man was inspired by an obscure YouTube channel featuring videos of homeless people being pranked and that the young man has apologized repeatedly for his actions.
An apology was captured on video ran on The Lakewood Scoop and received over 36,000 hits, shows the prankster expressing his contrition and giving Leggatt a $20 bill, a hug and an opportunity to douse him with coffee, an offer that the homeless man graciously declined.
Orthodox Jewish Lakewood resident Ari Boyer was horrified to read about the incident on Facebook and he reached out to Leggatt in an attempt to do right by the homeless man.
“I met him the next day and took him for a haircut, to Walmart and gave him money for food,” Boyer told VIN News. “We bought him a long sleeved t-shirt, a pair of pants he had always wanted, a coat and a watch.”
After his barbershop, a joyful Leggatt told Boyer that he felt like a new man and like he had just won the Powerball.
“This is the best day of my life,” said Leggatt. “I fell like a million, billion dollars.”
After their shopping trip, where Leggatt dubbed Boyer his “best buddy,” the two men arranged to meet on Friday so that Boyer could put Leggatt up at a hotel to provide him with shelter during this weekend’s mega-storm.
Leggatt failed to show up at the appointed time and place, leaving Boyer scrambling to locate the homeless man just hours before Shabbos. When the two finally connected, they discovered that the hotel Boyer had originally contacted had closed unexpectedly and with Shabbos fast approaching, Boyer gave Leggatt money for another meal and arranged for a local organization to pick the homeless man up and take him to a different hotel.
Boyer said that the organization neglected to pick up Leggatt as promised for unknown reasons and Pastor Steve Brigham, who has known Leggatt for eight years, located him on Friday night in his customary dugout and took him to a hotel. Despite his efforts to help Leggatt in a variety of ways, Boyer was denounced on social media for the chain of events that led to the homeless man returning to his dugout on Friday night.
According to homeless advocates and shelter workers, homeless people are often resistant to stay in any kind of shelter, preferring the safety of their accustomed environment.
Two separate GoFundMe campaigns established to benefit Leggatt have raised over $3,700 in just three days. Brigham has been tasked with making sure that all funds raised are used appropriately.
“Housing is probably the most important thing that Ron needs right now,” said Brigham. “We are looking for a hotel that has long term rates so we can put him up and from there do the best we can to take care of his basic needs.”
Brigham estimated that Leggatt’s monthly social security check nets him just $100.
“It is hard,” said Brigham. “We are trying to do research and maybe get him into some kind of senior facility.”
Leggatt sleeps at the home team dugout of the local ballpark, located a quarter of a mile away from the Singins gas station on Cedarbridge Avenue.
“It is tough,” said Brigham. “He was sleeping on a bench that was only 18 inches wide and some of the scrapes and bruises on his face are from rolling off the bench and hitting his face on the concrete floor.”
Brigham said that Leggatt, who has what he termed “minor issues”, was dropped off at a homeless encampment in Lakewood known as Tent City by his sister when she moved to Arizona several years ago. Tent City was shut down by the Lakewood Township in the spring of 2014, with its approximately 60 residents placed in temporary housing for a one year period. According to Brigham, there are currently no homeless shelters in all of Ocean County.
“Ron is very polite, from a middle class background,” said Brigham. “He is very passive, very courteous and very friendly and has a lot of good attributes. He is very trusting of people.”
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