A Roman Catholic priest from Nigeria says that a man threatened him with a baseball bat in Marine Park earlier this month, called him a racial epithet and yelling at him to "go back to the projects where you belong," according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn.
Reverend Uriroghene Okrokoto, 28, told police that he was walking down Avenue T near Ford Street around 3:45 a.m. on January 13th, when a man approached him in a dark SUV. He began walking faster, and the driver allegedly sped up, then stopped and flashed his high beams. When Okrokoto attempted to cross the street, the driver allegedly got out of the car holding a baseball bat and approached him.
"Go back to the projects where you belong or your neighborhood in Flatbush where you came from," he allegedly said. Okrokoto says the man called him a racial slur and told him to "leave this neighborhood...and if you come back, I'm going to split your head."
He then got into his car and drove away, according to the complaint. The encounter allegedly took place a few blocks from Okrokoto's church, Good Shepherd Roman Catholic.
Okrokoto managed to catch the license plate on the SUV, which police traced to 25-year-old Joseph Mattarelliano. A few minutes after Mattarelliano left the scene, the complaint states, he called 911 to say that a black man had been "pulling on car door handles attempting to break in."
Mattarelliano reportedly turned himself in at the 61st Precinct on Friday, and has since been charged with menacing as a hate crime, a Class A misdemeanor, as well as aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. His bail has been set at $5,000.
Janet Subrizi, a member of the church, told the NY Post that Okrokoto had been ordained last June. “Knowing him, I think he would pray for the person and not hold any kind of fear or any kind of hurt in his heart against that man," she said.
An attorney for Mattarelliano could not immediately be reached.