The one-time Mr. Universe runner-up, who currently moonlights as a bodyguard for Jennifer Lopez and other celebrities, has run into trouble right outside his Manhattan apartment.
On Tuesday, police said Willy Gonzalez, 70, was pepper sprayed in the face by a teenage girl after she was confronted by a group of intruding marijuana-smoking youths on the 12th floor of his NYCHA building in Chelsea.
“I’m sort of the sheriff of this place,” explained Gonzalez, who celebrated his last birthday last Saturday. “I can protect myself. When these kids come home from school at lunchtime, it seems like they have nothing better to do than get in the way.”
The victim told Daily News that he heard young people having fun, grabbed a thick wooden stick and challenged the group before he was attacked.
“You never expected a little girl to splash in my eyes,” Gonzalez said. “They were testing me because they had this spray. I won’t put down the stick, you understand?
Gonzalez said the confrontation escalated after he told pot-smoking kids from a nearby high school to leave because they trespassed around 12:20 p.m. Monday. All but three received the message and split up, leaving Gonzalez to face the remaining trio.
“You don’t know what gets in your eyes when people start splashing on you,” he said. The remaining teens then fled while Gonzalez returned to his apartment to shower and rinse his eyes. He refused medical attention when the ambulance arrived.
Senior Citizen, Lifetime Resident of W. 17th St. in Fulton Houses NYCHA, said he had no intention of harming any of the children and simply wanted them to leave.
“I would never hit a child with a stick in my life,” said the father of four. “But I saw really bad things when kids had guns and knives.”
In his younger, brighter days, Gonzalez placed second to Lou Ferrigno in the 1986 Mr. Universe pageant. He now moonlights as a private investigator and has worked as a security guard for celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey and Lopez. Most recently, he accompanied J. Lo to the Tribeca Film Festival last summer.
He also helped accommodate families and first responders at the Embassy Suites hotel, where he worked as chief of security, near Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.
The victim said that strangers in his house are a problem, describing how people looking for trouble harass neighbors inside.
“Older people get scared,” he explained. “Packages were stolen from you, there is rubbish on your floor, marijuana cigarette butts, saliva, feces on your floor… It’s disgusting. It’s tiring.”
On Tuesday, the NYPD released images of the suspected woman and asked the public for help in their search for her.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be confidential.
“Kids need knowledge and therapy,” Gonzalez said of the attackers. “Understanding, respect for others. Law is law. But [there] There must be some kind of punishment.”