New York

Daily News freelance news photographer hurt in NYC carjacking

A Daily News freelance crime photographer found himself on the other side of the lens when he was carjacked Wednesday evening and dragged for nearly three blocks on a Manhattan street, police said.

Sam Costanza, 73, said he had stopped to get a quick cup of tea from his favorite West Village deli when a thief jumped into his Toyota with the keys still in the ignition.

Witnesses said the driver started the car and took off along W. Fourth St. shortly before 7 p.m., but not before Costanza ran out of the store and climbed into the open passenger door window, trying to stop the driver.

With the shutterbug hanging halfway outside the car, which was weaving left and right, the thief drove the speeding car for nearly three blocks before crashing into a building at W. 4th and Bank Sts., just feet away from a restaurant where diners were eating outdoors.

“I was yelling, ‘Get me out,’” Costanza, who was trapped inside, told the Daily News. “I was afraid the car was going to catch on fire.”

Several pedestrians gently pulled him from the car and sat him in a chair until first responders arrived, Constanza said. Costanza, who suffered a broken right leg and injuries to his foot, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Meanwhile, the deli owner, Ali Alshella, who had also given chase, caught up with the driver, who tried to escape after the crash. Alshella and other pedestrians held the driver until cops arrived minutes later.

“I’m very fortunate,” Costanza said. “I could have been killed. I was dragged for 2½ blocks.”

Cops arrested Tabbica Mahmoud, 44, for grand larceny of a vehicle, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of stolen property and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Mahmoud has a lengthy rap sheet with more than two dozen prior arrests, police said. His arraignment was pending Friday.

Costanza, who was on duty with expensive equipment in his car, said he learned his lesson about leaving his key in his vehicle — and about being an action hero.

“It was careless on my part,” he said.

Last year, the veteran photographer was injured while covering a Midtown anti-police protest in February. He was struck in the head from behind and knocked to the ground, where he was repeatedly kicked by up to 10 protesters, cops said.

Costanza said he believed he suffered a broken nose.

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