A Miami Beach man is facing charges after a video showed him shoving another man out of an elevator, but his defense attorney claims he was trying to protect himself from the Coronavirus.
Nachem Gross, 72, turned himself in to Miami Beach Police Thursday to face a charge of aggravated battery of an elderly person.
According to Gross’ attorney, Michael Grieco, Gross was in an elevator at the Portofino Tower condominium with his wife when the other man tried to enter.
Surveillance footage showed Gross shoving the man, who stumbled and fell backward.
The man who was shoved, 86-year old Gerald Steiglitz, said he still had a bruise on his upper thigh days after the incident.
“I saw him before in the building, in the swimming pool and the elevators. We always were friendly, hello, and that was it. But he could have said to me, ‘go down, take the next one,’” said Steiglitz. “He just pushed me out. I’m not looking for financial reward. I’m not looking for anything.”
Grieco said the condo association recently mandated that only two people can ride the elevator at a time, in order to promote social distancing.
He said Gross and his wife have health issues and are vulnerable to COVID-19, calling it a “stand your ground” case.
“Law enforcement made a huge mistake today by arresting someone for essentially protecting himself. In this world of COVID, every human being right now is a loaded weapon,” said Grieco.
Gross was booked into jail Thursday before he was allowed to post bond and was released, and Grieco said he hopes the charge will be dropped.
“The decision to arrest Mr. Gross is ridiculous. It’s absolutely a ridiculous decision to make,” said Grieco. “They decide to put handcuffs on a 72-year-old man who’s already got health risks, and put him in the Miami-Dade jail. It is a terrible decision. It’s beyond bad optics. What happens if my client gets sick?”
Miami-Dade County does not have any specific emergency orders when it comes to elevators. A spokeswoman for the county told NBC 6 they just have to keep social distancing of six feet. It is up to the facility to come up with rules.
“The MBPD was contacted by the victim and a subsequent investigation was launched. After reviewing the evidence and also conferring with the State Attorney’s Office, it was determined an arrest should be made,” Miami Beach Police said in a statement.