"He was just a really, really, really sweet guy," said Jeff Ayers, a manager at the store who has known Mr. Babbit for years. "One of our staff just had a baby and he was dying to see pictures."
Mr. Babbitt was walking through Union Square near Forbidden Planet last Wednesday when he was punched in the face seemingly at random by an assailant who, the police said, declared his intention to "punch the first white man I see."
After he was hit, Mr. Babbitt fell to the ground, striking his head on the pavement, the police said. The attacker, whom the police identified as Lashawn Marten, then struck two men who came to Mr. Babbitt's aid, they said.
Babbitt, a retired train conductor at 62, who cared for his 94 year old mother went into a coma and died yesterday. Billy Tucci wrote on Facebook;
"Jeffrey Babbit was at every New York comic convention and book signing that I attended. He was with Shi from the very beginning and bought every book and print I ever produced and would give me train books and magazines to pass on to my son William. Jeffrey was a gentle soul who NEVER said a bad thing to anyone. I am shocked and saddened beyond belief that I'll never see my friend's smile again as he was brutally beaten to death by some animal who randomly picked out Jeffrey to murder because he was white. "
The Times adds;
At Forbidden Planet, employees were left bereft by Mr. Babbitt's death, said Mr. Ayers, who broke into tears several times during a short interview.
Mr. Ayers had spoken to Mr. Babbitt the day before the attack when he came to the store looking to pick up a copy of a comic art book called "The Art of Grimm Fairy Tales" that he had ordered. The order had not yet arrived, and Mr. Babbitt was slightly annoyed, Mr. Ayers said.
"He's been hounding me for weeks and weeks for this book," he said.
Mr. Ayers said employees were also concerned about Mr. Babbitt's mother. He said they planned to set up a fund to help continue her care.
"We're a community here," he said. "These are people whose lives we're tied to."