Williamsburg, New York – A gang of Hasidic Jews, some identified as members of the Satmar Hasidic Shomrim (Safety Patrol), shouted homophobic and racial slurs as they brutally beat a gay black man in Williamsburg on December 1. The victim, 22-year-old Taj Patterson, suffered multiple injuries including a crushed eye socket, a torn retina, and cuts to his right knee and hip. This week, five hasidim were arrested for the attack by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. They have been charged with Gang Assault in the First Degree and a variety of other charges, though at this point a hate crimes charge has not been lodged, even considering the report of witnesses that a barrage of homophobic slurs accompanied the assault. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years for each assailant proved guilty. Failed Messiah, a blog covering news in the Hasidic community since 2004, identified those arrested as Pinchas Braver, 20, Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, and Joseph Fried, 25. Two of the alleged assailants fled from the United States to Israel immediately following the incident, but were apprehended there.
The five suspects and a number of other hasidim who allegedly participated in the attack are all members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community, a large and influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with pre-World War II roots in Hungary. According to A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, the Satmar Hasidim number at least 45,000 in Williamsburg today. The Shomrim is a volunteer neighborhood watch drawn from the Satmar community. Activists in Williamsburg quickly denied the involvement of the Shomrim in the attack, but according to the Brooklyn Paper, the denials left room to conclude that some of the attackers were indeed members of the watch group. An Orthodox rabbi who decried the attack did not mention the participation of the Shomrim in the December attack. Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said, “The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another. Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
EDGE on the Net reports that Patterson is a fashion student studying at the New York City College of Technology. While he says he does not remember much from the attack that occurred with swift savagery, he clearly recalls at least one of his assailants shouting, “Stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down,” as he kicked Patterson in the face. Since the horrific incident, Patterson has undergone surgery to repair his torn retina.
The true heroine of the whole bloody affair was the driver of Bus 57 who slammed on her brakes and stepped out of her bus snapping pictures of the assault with her cell phone, according to the New York Post. The NYPD say that the attacking gang fled the scene when they realized she was taking their pictures.
San Diego, California – A gay man who was brutally beaten with a ball bat across the face in the Hillcrest Neighborhood of San Diego used to feel gay people were safe in San Diego. No more. Dwayne Wynn, walking along the sidewalk at midnight Monday was targeted for being gay by three men who pulled up behind him in a truck and ambushed him with a ball bat, crushing his eye socket and smashing his ribs. 10News.com interviewed a tearful Wynn in his home, still obviously shaken by his ordeal. Wynn told News10 that he heard an anti-gay slur shouted behind him, and then was struck full in the face with the bat. “The last thing I see is a baseball bat being swapped right across the face,” he said. “I was laying there,” said Wynn. “I was covered in blood and I could hear them literally high fiving each other as they’re walking to their truck.” It all happened so quickly that Wynn could not get an accurate description of the men who assaulted him or the vehicle they were driving. “I thought I was dead,” he said, trembling from emotion. “I’ve never been that scared in my entire life. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought they were going to kill me. They were beating me that bad.”
The spree nature of the attack in the heart of Hillcrest, the San Diego neighborhood noted for “tolerance and acceptance” sends a wake up call to the residents of the large, active LGBTQ community there, reminding them that diversity is not the same thing as equality. “They just didn’t stop and they thought it was a game,” Wynn said, according to EDGE. “They thought it was fun.”
Unfinished Lives author, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, commented that major metropolitan LGBTQ communities have been lulled into a sense of complacency by recent news of marriage equality victories throughout the nation. “Cities like San Diego pride themselves in diversity and tolerance,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t mean queer folk are safe anywhere they live. Just because you live in a bubble, you do not live in a culture that accepts and defends your right to exist and be secure from harm.” Sprinkle, an LGBTQ hate crimes expert, noted that a prominent gay bookstore in Hillcrest was contacted to host a book signing and discussion on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend, but the store management declined since the issue did not seem pressing. “Now, with this gruesome crime in the heart of the ‘gayborhood,’ perhaps anti-gay hate crimes are a bit more real in San Diego,” Sprinkle observed. “We are thankful complacency has not cost anyone his or her life there,” he said.
The Hillcrest neighborhood, just north of famous Balboa Park, hosts the largest civic celebration in San Diego each year, the Pride Festival, drawing thousands. Dwayne Wynn used to feel safe and secure in his neighborhood. Now, he and many others do not, due to a group of homophobic men who are still at large, hunting down gay men.
New York City, New York – Nelson Falu, 20, was sentenced by the Bronx Supreme Court to seven years in prison for his role in a horrendous 2010 gay torture case that rocked the Big Apple for weeks. Falu is the first of eight Latin King Goonies to face justice for his role in the sexual torture of three persons the gang believed to be gay. According to Gay Star News, Prosecutor Theresa Gottlieb told the court on August 9 that Falu’s victims would rather have a plea bargain settle the issue rather than be forced to “relive” the horrors they endured at the hands of the Goonies in October 2010.
Falu and seven other Goonies tortured a 17-year-old gang recruit they assumed was gay, and then lured another 17-year-old and a 30-year-old man they assumed was having gay sex with the teens into their Bronx safe house that served as a makeshift dungeon, where they were sexually tortured, as well. As reported by Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the Goonies fell upon their victims like wolves, sodomizing one of the 17-year-olds with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, solely because they suspected them of being gay. The victims were berated with homophobic slurs and burned with cigarettes, beaten with chains, and repeatedly sodomized with a wooden bat for hours. The suspects were arrested and charged with with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery as bias motivated hate crimes.
LGBTQ Nation quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying at the time of the arrests of the Goonies, “Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them. The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”
Falu, who was 18 at the time of his crimes, and two other gang members accepted plea deals in June. It remains to be seen if the five others will accept plea bargains, or face trial in court.
Seattle, Washington – A 37-year-old gay man was attacked early Monday morning by a gang of women and men who yelled anti-gay slurs as they ran him down in the gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. KOMO News 4 reports that police are calling the attack a bias-driven hate crime.
Jason Jacobs told reporters and the Seattle Police Department that he was walking down the street in his own neighborhood a bit past midnight on Monday when two women and three men called out slurs about his sexual orientation, chased him down, and assaulted him with fists and kicks until he lay unconscious with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose, a major concussion, and two cracked ribs. Jacobs says he did not get a good look at his assailants, but knows other witnesses did–if they will only come forward. The attack took place in front of a Starbucks Coffee Shop, but only one witness has come forward to file a report with the SPD. Jacobs’ cries for help drew the witness to respond out of a feeling that, if he were subjected to such an attack, he would want someone to reach out to him. The witness stayed with Jacobs until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.
Jacobs says that his pink shirt and shoes may have first attracted the attention of the gang of women and men, the Huffington Post reports. “Hopefully somebody saw something,” Jacobs told KIRO News. “Hopefully we can get some justice.” On Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his attack, seeking to encourage others to come forward and help police with the investigation. Looking at the stains of his own blood still on the sidewalk, Jacobs says that he has lost the feeling of safety and security he once had in the Capitol Hill area.
Seattle Police have assigned this case to their bias crimes division. In their report, investigators describe the three men suspected of the crime as being in their 20s and of “unknown race,” while the two women were described as “Hispanics” with dark hair. As of this writing, no arrests have been made.
Hollywood, California – A man has been arrested in the savage beating case involving a transgender woman last month. Nicol Shakhnazayan, 21, was taken into custody by detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department and charged with felony battery of a woman. Shakhnazayan, whose arrest happened a day after Los Angeles city leaders posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the assailants in the case, is being held on $1.05 million bail, according to Gay Star News. The victim, 22-year-old transgender woman Vivian Diego, was assaulted by four men shouting transphobic and homophobic slurs. The assault took place late on the night of May 31 near a Metro stop at Hollywood and Ivar, after Ms. Diego finished her shift as a barista at Beso Restaurant. CBS Los Angeles reports that video of the attack on Ms. Diego helped in making the arrest of the first suspect. Lt. Marc Reina of the LAPD told CBS2: “One of the members of the group ran after Vivian and struck her from behind, knocking her to the ground. The remaining members of the group then joined in brutally assaulting Vivian by repeatedly kicking her, even while she lay motionless on the sidewalk.”
Ms. Diego described the horror and pain of the attack in vivid terms: “It was awful. I wouldn’t wish the pain I went through on my worst enemy.” She sustained a broken jaw, a smashed cheekbone, bruises, and two cracked ribs. Her family remains solidly in support of her, calling on the police and city officials to bring the other perpetrators of this hate crime to justice.
As she recovers, Ms. Diego, whose mouth is wired shut, communicated optimism and determination through her pain. She is proud to be a transgender woman. “I am not letting this incident, this attack stop me from living my life,” she said to CBS News. “As you can see, I’m still fabulous.”
Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence
Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources. On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports. Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high. When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation. Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers. “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said. Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises. Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him. “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.
The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate. Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt. Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his. “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.”
Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26. The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo. The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest. Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said. The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation. The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week. Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year. Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene. He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache. The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct. No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.
Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City. Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.
Yorkville, Illinois- An 18-year-old man was sentenced by an Illinois court to two years in prison for his role in a violent attack upon a gay man. Marquitte West was found guilty of hate crime related to sexual orientation for participating in a gang attack against 29-year-old gay man Bryce Stiff in June 2010. Both men are from Oswego, Illinois, a city of 30,000 in the northern part of the state. Two other Oswego men, Jabari Tuggles and Robert Franklin, are being held in prison awaiting their trials for the same offense. A third man is still being sought by the police.
Stiff suffered severe injuries in the attack, leaving him with nerve damage to his face, and a lip so harmed that he has required reconstructive surgery. He has lingering psychological problems since the savage assault, as well. In a letter to the court prior to West’s sentencing, Stiff wrote, “I used to be a happy, caring and loving person who would do anything to help anyone. I was happy about me being gay … but now I’m filled with so much bitterness, hatred and I’m very depressed. I don’t like leaving my home. I don’t like doing things that excite me anymore. I feel like everyone is out to get me.”
According to Chicago Pride, West will serve out his sentence in conjunction with a theft charge. He is required by the court to pay his victim’s medical costs. The Kendall County District Attorney told Chicago Pride that this is the first hate crimes prosecution he can recall in county history.