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Woman who witnessed deadly assault outside of convenience store speaks out

The 70-year-old man who died after being beaten outside of a convenience store in Syracuse, has been laid to rest.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The 70-year-old man who died after being beaten outside of a convenience store in Syracuse, has been laid to rest.

But, painful memories still haunt the woman who witnessed the attack. Her instinct to help overcame fear, as she screamed at the suspect.

"I was angry. I was angry," she said. "I remember telling them that, 'Oh my goodness. You just did this in front of the cameras, in front of the store. They are going to catch you.’"

As James Gifford struggled to survive, the woman he met by chance at a local convenience store knelt beside him, praying as he was taken to the hospital; unaware of Gifford's reputation for helping others, until she attended his funeral.

"Everyone fears that they will be Jim,” she said. "Knowing some of the things he did in the community, he needed somebody who was just not afraid. ."

Police say the witness' actions show that there is still faith left in humanity.

"Mr. Gifford got brutally attacked in an unprovoked incident. That there were people that actually stopped to help him while he was down on the ground - that shows that the good will outweigh the bad in this community," said Sergeant Tom Connellan with the Syracuse Police Department.

The good samaritan admits she doesn't know how to break the cycle of violence, but says she has more hope than ever that one man's death can ignite a movement.

"This has just fueled me to get that message across to pay it forward," she said. "God has the ability to turn a travesty like this into a message for somebody else who needs it."

18-year-old Romeo Williams was charged with assault after the attack, when Gifford was still alive.

He’s currently being held at the Justice Center, while the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office considers additional charges.

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