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Woman Assaulted, Robbed at East Harlem, NY, Self-Storage Facility

December 4, 2019

3 Min Read
Woman Assaulted, Robbed at East Harlem, NY, Self-Storage Facility

A woman carrying $3,000 in cash was assaulted and robbed last month while visiting a New York City self-storage facility. Phionna Branham, 26, who works as an exotic dancer, was attacked around 5 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Manhattan Mini Storage in East Harlem. She had planned to put the cash, which consisted mostly of $1 bills and was stuffed into a duffel bag, into her storage unit with some summer clothes when she was attacked by three assailants, according to a source.

The first attacker demanded Branham perform oral sex on him, then pushed her to the ground and began kicking her when she refused. “His shoe even came off. He was wearing construction boots,” Branham told a source.

The second assailant, a woman, punched Branham in the face with a lock from a storage unit. She then grabbed the duffle bag, spilling the money on the floor. As she began picking up the scattered bills, a third attacker punched Branham in the face, gashing her lip.

The two male attackers then fled. Branhamfollowed and flagged down two officers in the area, a source reported. Two of the attackers were apprehended, and Branham was transported to a local hospital for stitches.

Israel Smith, 29, initially told the officers he didn’t have anything to do with the assault. However, after a witness screamed, “That’s the guy,” Smith fled down 110th Street and raced across six lanes of FDR Drive. Police found him “hanging by his fingertips” from an esplanade over the East River, a source reported. “It was like in the movies, when someone is hanging off a mountain,” said Detective Leonard Bradley, one of two officers who found him.

Officer Miguel Rivera told a source he thought Smith would fall as the concrete began to crumble, and Smith initially refused help. Police eventually hauled him to safety and arrested him. He’s being held on a $10,000 cash bond on charges of robbery, gang assault and assault. His next court appearance was scheduled for Nov. 27. Smith has 16 prior arrests including assault, according to police.

Rosemary Rodriguez, 28, was arrested on the same charges. She was released without bail at her arraignment. Rodriguez was still with Branham when police first arrived and tried to tell them she herself was the assault victim. Police disproved her claim after reviewing security footage.

The third suspect was still at large as of last week.

Founded in 1978, Manhattan Mini is part of the Edison Properties network of businesses. Edison also operates Edison ParkFast, a network of 40 garages and lots throughout Baltimore, New York City and Northeast New Jersey. Its other properties include workspace offices, executive offices and pre-built suites, The Hippodrome office building, and The Ludlow, a luxury residential high-rise on the Lower East Side.

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