New York City police say a man jumped out of a popular Upper West Side eatery’s walk-in freezer, grabbed a knife and started attacking employees, then died at a hospital on Sunday morning.
The incident happened at the height of the brunch rush around 11 a.m. at Sarabeth’s Restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue at West 80th Street, New York television station WCBS reported.
Police say the kitchen staff did not recognize the person, described by NYPD as a 54-year-old man who did not work at the restaurant; the man also wasn't a former employee.
Sarabeth’s staff told police they did not know how the man got into the freezer.
After being discovered, the man picked up a kitchen knife and yelled “away Satan” before attacking employees, who were able to disarm him and wrestle him to the ground.
The man tried to talk with kitchen staff a short time later but suffered some kind of medical emergency, according to authorities.
A customer who was at the front of the restaurant getting change at the time says employees were panicking.
“I was trying to talk to them. They were nervous, they didn't know [how] to answer me, one person was running,” he told WCBS.
Officers responding to the scene found the 54-year-old unconscious and unresponsive. Emergency medical responders took the man to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Police are withholding the man’s identity until his family can be notified, though sources tell WCBS he is from Arizona. The NYC Medical Examiner will determine his cause of death as investigators look into why he went into the restaurant, how he got into the freezer, and how long he was in there for.
Meanwhile, those who live near the restaurant were stunned to learn of the bizarre and frightening incident.
“That’s pretty crazy for this kind of restaurant and area that we live in, you wouldn’t really see that coming,” said Steve Prince, an Upper West Side resident.
“It’s sort of a wake up call to everybody else to think about what’s going on and monitor their staff,” added Cynthia Alonso, who also lives nearby.
The restaurant did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.