The Bronx woman who bravely tackled the creep who randomly punched her 4-year-old son in Times Square said her “mama bear” instincts took over as soon as she heard her boy wailing in pain.
“I was angry. I sprung into action,” Rafaela Rivera, 42, told The Post on Saturday. “The mama bear in me came out. I did what any mama would do. I see my baby crying, it was like why you hit a 4-year-old?”
In a dramatic move captured on surveillance video, Rivera immediately chased the fiend, grabbing him from behind and refusing to let go until police arrived.
Rivera, a bagel factory worker, told The Post how a happy family trip unraveled Thursday as she and her son, Angel, and daughter, Carmen, walked through Times Square.
The trio had taken an Uber to Manhattan for a photoshoot for Angel, an aspiring model, to avoid any possible violence on the subway.
After the photoshoot, they were enjoying the unseasonably warm afternoon at the Crossroads of the World when Carmen, 17, said she spotted the suspect acting strangely.
“He was walking close to people moving and swinging his arm. I started watching him to see if he’d do anything,” Carmen said.
Then, she said, the man swung his arm, hitting Angel in the face, causing him to fall backwards onto the pavement.
“It sounded like a smack real hard and I turned around and then my baby is crying,” said Rivera, who was a few inches in front of her kids. “I said, ‘What the heck?’ My daughter said, ‘Mommy he just hit him’.”
Her daughter pointed to the assailant and Rivera took off.
“I went to grab him, ‘Hey you just hit my son.’ I grabbed him from the back and I gave him like a big bear hug and then I fell to the ground with him. He was moving around,” Rivera said.
“He was trying to get away. I said I’m not going to let go, you are not going to get away, I’m going to let the cops get you for hitting my 4-year-old son,” she recalled.
Carmen said the suspect spat on her as he and her mom tussled.
“At that point I was really mad. I was hitting on him. That was nasty,” she said.
When the cops came she was still holding fast to the perp.
“The cops said, ‘Let him go, let him go.’ I said, ‘He hit my son,’ and one said, ‘We got him, let him go.’ So I let him go and they had him on the ground,” she said. “He didn’t say anything. He was mumbling. I think he wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
Police charged Babacar Mbaye, 34, a repeat offender with 51 arrests, in the attack with assault, endangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest.
EMTs came to attend to Angel, but he refused to get into an ambulance saying he wanted to stay with his mom and was fine because he was a “tough boy.”
Angel, who was playing in his parents’ living room Saturday, had a few tiny scratch marks near his eye where he was viciously punched.
“He hit me here,” Angel said pointing to his right eye. “It was hard on my head, I saw a whole bunch of colors. I was crying.”
Angel said he was “feeling good right now. I am strong. My eye doesn’t hurt.”
Rivera said she had bruises on her arm and legs.
Mbaye had three recent prior arrests for assault including a Feb. 3. charge for allegedly punching a woman in the head on the subway. He was released without bail on a desk appearance ticket for that incident, said his lawyer, Thomas Kenniff.
He was given supervised release for a Jan. 20 charge when he was accused of punching and kicking a woman in the stomach. He was then released without bail after an August arrest for kicking a woman.
Kenniff had contended at Mbaye’s arraignment that the man had been dancing in Times Square “and inadvertently made contact with the child.”
On Saturday, he said that statement was based on a preliminary investigation.
“Clearly this appears to be someone who is not in a sound mental state at the time of the incident,” he said.
Mbaye is being held on $30,000 bail.
Rivera questioned why Mbaye wasn’t jailed previously.
“He should be in a place where he is institutionalized or he should be doing jail time. He hit a 4 year-old child. Who’s next?” she said.
Angel’s father, Federico, said he was “very angry” about what happened.
The family had been living in California and moved back to New York about two years ago.
“It’s a different New York now – forget it. The crime is out of this world,” he said. “There is no police presence like it used to be.”
Additional reporting by Dean Balsamini and Joe Marino