New York Man With Gun to Head Thwarts Muggers in Central Park: 'I Got Lucky'

Inside Edition Digital

Ashikur “Ash” Chowdury tells Inside Edition Digital “I followed my guts, and I think it saved my life,” however he advises others to not be as foolish.

A 25-year-old Manhattan man had a gun to his head but managed to thwart muggers in Central Park two weeks ago and tells Inside Edition Digital, “I got lucky.”

Ashikur “Ash” Chowdury is a paraprofessional in a kindergarten ICT (Information and Communication Technology) classroom for students with individualized education plans.

“All the kids in that classroom are either special needs or just have a more difficult time learning in a traditional classroom setting,” he says. “I think the biggest thing my job really teaches me is something that honestly can't be taught. It's just empathy. It's being able to, in the most basic sense, put yourself in the shoes of another human being and kind of understand where they're coming from. And then most importantly, meet them where they're at.”

Chowdury used those skills on April 26 when he was walking through Central Park after work and on his way home.

He explains that the weather was perfect that day so instead of going straight home to East Harlem, he took a casual stroll through the legendary park and ended up getting lost.

While getting on a bike path to find his way out later that night just after 9:30 p.m., he said he felt something brush over his shoulder as he was looking down at his phone and then saw someone standing face to face with him who wanted to snatch his device.

“The man that had tried to take my phone suddenly was standing in front of me and was just staring at me in awe, probably just in shock that his first plan of just taking it out of my hand didn't work,” he recalls. “The first thing I felt, I was just angry. I was taken aback and I was just like, ‘Excuse me, you did not just try to take my phone.’”

Chowdury says he was in a “fight or flight” scenario and he says he chose to fight back, saying, “I've never been much of a flight guy. So my first instinct was to fight. Especially in this moment, I felt attacked. Someone violated my personal space to try to steal something from me.

“There wasn't any physicality involved. I moved towards him, I chased him a little bit and tripped,” he adds. “Then that's when I realized the power balance had shifted. I had became the one who was scary, and this person was panicking and in fear, and started throwing things at me.”

Yet, it was in this moment that things shifted again.

“Next thing I know, I realized at some point that there's a second person who's watching. That person comes up to the first guy, pulls a gun out from his jacket pocket. And then the first guy takes it, puts it up to my head and says, ‘Give me the phone,’” Chowdury recalls.

Chowdury says that the man with the gun had a mask on and the person who handed him the weapon had a hoodie up so it was difficult to get a good look at their faces, however, he could see their eyes.

“Just from the way that this person was acting, I looked into his eyes, and I knew it wholeheartedly -- this was a kid, couldn't have been older than 16. When he put the gun up to my head and I looked into his eyes, I didn't see aggression. I saw panic, I saw fear,” he says.

Chowdury says that growing up in the rough East Harlem as a “short, chubby kid,” he was a victim many times in his life. “I grew up being a target, so I know aggression in someone's eyes,” he adds.

His past traumas may have taught him street smarts, but it also showcased his bravado to not want to be a victim any longer.

“I trusted my instincts. I trusted my guts. And most importantly, I trusted my empathy. So immediately I calmed down. And part of me was also very confident and very foolishly brave,” he says. “I said to him, ‘Oh, you just pulled a gun on me. You better be prepared to shoot it. You don't have the balls to shoot me.’ I just noticed there was still panic and fear in this kid's eyes. And that's when I tried to reason with him … I didn't say this to his face, but in my mind I was thinking, ‘Who let you down? Who didn't see your potential? Who had no faith in you? Who didn't see what you could be?’ Just in that moment, I empathized with him.”

Chowdury admits “I got lucky for the most part,” but as he was trying to reason with the gunman, a good Samaritan on a bike saw what was happening and intervened by calling the police. With help of the good Samaritan, Chowdury says that he felt he now had the power again.

“I don't want to vilify his actions or make the perp seem to be a victim. But in my eyes, all I saw was a scared kid holding a gun. He may have been holding it to my head, but I knew he wasn't going to pull the trigger,” he says.

The muggers took off and police arrived. Chowdury gave statements on what happened and became a statistic with reports of multiple muggings that week in Central Park.

Police have yet to find the muggers who held up Chowdury.

While the muggers never made off with anything from Chowdury, he says he felt a wave of confidence after the incident but also realized his actions were not the smartest.

“My first reaction was, ‘Yeah, I'm kind of a badass!’ But then my second reaction, the one that followed after was, ‘God, I'm an idiot.’ Because that's when it started filling my head: ‘Dude, think about your family. Think about your friends. Think about everyone who would miss you.’ And I was just like, ‘It was not worth it.’ Even if I had read the situation right, it just didn't feel like it was worth it,” he admits. “That's why for the most part I've been saying I got lucky. Because if it wasn't for luck, I wouldn't be here right now.”

The son of Bengali immigrants says that surprisingly his family still doesn’t know about what happened.

“When the first wave of reporters first showed up at my door, my mom was kind of suspicious. But I used to be an actor; I used to do photo shoots all the time. So I told her, ‘Oh, I did this photo shoot in Central Park. They're probably following up about it,’” he says.

However, while he isn’t afraid of his mother, he is more scared of the pain this situation would cause her.

Despite his story floating around the local news and people in his neighborhood coming up to him and harassing him by saying, “I would shoot you,” he brushes it off, sarcastically saying, “Okay, what do you want? A cookie? Congratulations."

Chowdury defends his actions, saying, “I followed my guts, and I think it saved my life,” however he advises others to not be as foolish.

“I got lucky in this situation. I had the right instincts, but a phone is not worth it. If someone's holding a gun to your head, no matter how confident you think you are that they won't shoot you, don't take the risk. At first I was riding a high,” he says. “The first thing that came to mind was my parents. No parent wants to outlive their child. And it would be such a dumb way to die. You won't look cool. To anyone who thinks standing up to a gun is cool, it's not cool. It's straight-up foolish. You're not going to get any brownie points with God just because you stood up to a gun.”

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