“I have dreams, I have nightmares, I have daymares,” Vastardis told NBC 10 News in his first television interview since the early January assault and robbery at the Trump Taj Mahal.
With a fractured hip and other injuries, the avid gambler from Upper Deerfield Twp., N.J. is temporarily confined to a wheelchair.
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The attacker, who was caught on surveillance video and remains at-large, watched Vastardis playing blackjack, police said. The suspect got into an elevator with Vastardis, then beat him in the garage before stealing $10,000 in casino winnings, according to Vastardis and detectives.
“I walked about three or four steps and something hit me in the back of my head. I fell down and this guy was on top of me. And he was just beating me and just beating me,” Vastardis recalled.
"He went right to my left hand pocket. He knew where [the money] was.”
The attacker fled in a taxi, police said, leaving Vastardis alone in the parking garage.
“I was there on the ground, I couldn’t get up. Hollering and screaming 'help, help, help, help, help!" Vastardis said. “I thought I was going to die.”
The search for the suspect continues, police said. Authorities hope test results on DNA evidence the perpetrator allegedly left behind in the taxi will shed more light on his identity, NBC 10 News has learned.
“If he gets caught or doesn’t get caught, won’t make a difference to me,” Vastardis said. “The damage is done as far as I’m concerned. He’s going to do it to somebody else. Hopefully he doesn’t kill that person.”
Vastardis wants the Taj Mahal to create a policy that would require its employees to offer casino winners of at least $2,500 security escorts to their cars.
“They spend thousands and thousands of dollars and millions of dollars on advertising to get you to come in there. They spend 10 cents to get you to leave,” the victim said.
Vastardis sat with his fiancée on one side and his attorney on the other during the interview.
The victim’s Vineland-based lawyer, Joe O’Neill, said his firm was initiating its own investigation into the crime and whether or not the casino provided enough security to protect Vastardis.
O’Neill hopes to reach a settlement of some sort with the Taj Mahal but will file a lawsuit if necessary, he said.
“We want to find out how much security is necessary to protect the patrons of the Taj Mahal,” O’Neill said. “If policies were insufficient, they ought to be changed.”
Trump officials declined to comment beyond the following statement:
“We continue to work with the Atlantic City Police department in their ongoing investigation and that we wish Mr. Vastardis a speedy recovery,” the statement said.
Vastardis will be in the wheelchair for 10 to 12 weeks, he said. With his physical pain and even worse mental anguish, he is now too fearful to visit any of Atlantic City’s gaming halls.
“I’ll be a wreck, for me to go to a casino again,” he said.