Florida man charged after pushing elderly man off elevator to practice social distancing

Florida man charged after pushing elderly man off elevator to practice social distancing (CNN Newsource/WSVN)

An attempt to social distance in an elevator led to a confrontation between two elderly men.

Surveillance video shows 72-year-old Nachum Gross appearing to push another senior who was trying to hop on the elevator.

Now, Gross is charged with battery on a person 65 or older; his attorney says he was simply defending himself.

"In this world of COVID... every human being right now is a loaded weapon," said Michael Grieco, the attorney representing Gross. "There was no unlawful touching. He was completely within his rights to defend himself and defend his wife."

The video was captured June 22 at Portofino Towers, where social distancing is limiting elevator capacity to two people at a time.

Gross is seen in the elevator with this wife. Then as the elevator door opens on the 32nd floor, a man tried to enter. Gross holds up two fingers, referring to the two-person limit, but the man tried to come in anyways.

Then Gross pushes back, sending 86-year-old Gerald Steiglitz stumbling back.

"He was aggressive and he shouldn't have been aggressive," Steiglitz said.

Steiglitz says when he tried to get on the elevator, he thought his neighbor of more than 20 years was just saying hello.

"I thought this was peace," he said. "I didn't know what it meant."

"He thought this was peace and he give him the elbow to say hello and you see Gerry is smiling, but then he pushed him," said Salome Steiglitz, Gerald's wife. "He pushed so hard that he came out of the elevator."

Steiglitz says the result was a whopper of a bruise from hitting the corner of a table.

"I was all black and blue on the back side," he said.

So Steiglitz went to the police. Ten days later, Gross surrendered at the Miami Beach Police Department and was booked into jail.

Gross posted bond several hours later without saying a word, choosing to let his attorney do the talking.

"This is a self defense case through and through," Greico said. "This thing is ridiculous and I don't see any scenario where the state attorney could ever file this."

Portofino Towers released a statement, saying they have strict rules regarding social distancing and they limit the elevators to only two people at a time.