At a press conference this afternoon at NYPD headquarters, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly addressed a recent spate of anti-gay hate crimes, which included the murder of Mark Carson at the hands of a stranger in Greenwich Village this weekend. Kelly told reporters today that while hate crimes are down 30% overall since last year, crimes against homosexuals have increased by more than 70%.
There have been 29 anti-gay attacks so far this year, compared to 14 at this time last year. Kelly also said these attacks were more likely to happen in Manhattan, and stressed that bias attacks were underreported. Both Kelly and Bloomberg urged the public to come forward and report these crimes to the police.
During the press conference, Kelly shared more details about an alleged bias attack in the East Village last night that left a man bloodied and bruised. Investigators say the victim, Dan Contarino, knew his assailant for about a month. Yesterday they shared a pitcher of sangria at Yuca Bar near Tompkins Square Park, and later went to the gay bar Boiler Room for "shots and beers." According to police, they then walked for pizza near 2nd Avenue and Avenue A—during this walk, around 10:45 p.m., Contarino told the suspect he was gay.
Contarino told police that the suspect, 39-year-old Roman Gornell, at first seemed to take the news in stride, saying that he had family and friends that were gay. But according to Kelly, Contarino says the suspect later "snapped and became enraged," shouting anti-gay slurs and striking him in the face.
Contarino was knocked unconscious and found by a security guard; EMS was unable to interview him because he was slipping in and out of consciousness. Police are currently on the lookout for Gornell, who has been staying at the Bowery Mission for around a month. According to the NYPD, he has about 20 prior arrests, mostly for drugs.
Here are Mayor Bloomberg's remarks from the press conference:
"Last Friday, the murder of a young man named Mark Carson shocked our city. He was murdered because of his sexual orientation - and only because of his sexual orientation. It was a cold-blooded hate crime that cut short a life full of promise - and brought back awful memories for people who were once afraid to walk down the street with the person that they loved.
“Thankfully, we have come a long way from those days - but the murder of Mark Carson is a tragic reminder of how far we still have to go.
“In recent weeks, there have been a number of incidents where people were attacked, verbally and physically, because of their sexual orientation. And in just the last 24 hours, the NYPD learned of two other incidents of New Yorkers being attacked violently because of their sexual orientation.
“Both of these incidents took place in Manhattan - and Commissioner Kelly will provide some more details about each. Thankfully, in this case nobody was killed - but that doesn’t for a moment make these crimes any less despicable, or any less unacceptable. New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance.
“We are a place that celebrates diversity - a place where people from around the world come to live free of prejudice and persecution. Hate crimes like these are an offence against all we stand for as a city - and we will do everything possible to stop them, whether that hatred is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity.
“That’s why we work hard to protect every community that’s victimized by hate crimes, and that’s why we’ve increased patrols in the areas where hate crimes have occurred, something Commissioner Kelly will discuss.
“The NYPD, however, can only do a certain amount to protect New Yorkers from violence. We’ll do everything that we can and we’ll prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, anyone who commits hate crimes. But all of us can do our part as well to end hate crimes and spread tolerance: as parents, as teachers, as friends, and as members of the community.
“No person - regardless of what they look like or who they love - should ever walk down the street in fear."