Police have released security camera footage of the man believed to have set two rainbow pride flags on fire outside a Harlem bar.
The suspect's face is difficult to make out in the video still, due to extreme graininess, but the video clearly shows a young man in sneakers and short-sleeved shirt approach the display in front of Alibi Lounge (2376 7th Avenue), flick on a lighter, and hold it to one flag, then the other, before walking away.
According to the NYPD, the possible bias crime occurred around 12:15 a.m. on Friday; by 12:30, someone had spotted the small blaze and ran into Alibi shouting, "Fire!"
Owner Alexi Minko and some of the bar's patrons quickly ran outside and extinguished the fire. Minko later shared a photo of the damage on Instagram. "To the homophobic coward, we will make it our mission to find you!" the caption read.
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Few minutes ago, someone set our rainbow flags on fire! To the homophobic coward, we will make our mission to find you! It's #pridemonth motherfucker! #pride #lgbtpride #gaybar #gaybarnyc #Harlem #gayharlem #gayinstagram 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏴☠️
Governor Andrew Cuomo dispatched the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to help with the NYPD's investigation, describing the incident as a "cowardly act made worse by the fact that it happened on the eve of Pride month," which officially kicked off June 1st.
"There is no place for hate in New York and those responsible for this repugnant behavior must be held accountable," Cuomo said. "Rather than divide New Yorkers, this despicable act will only strengthen our commitment to tolerance, equality, and justice for every individual."
Across the board, overall city crime rates dropped between 2018 and 2019, with one notable exception: Hate crimes, which rose 64 percent in the last year. Of the total 184 incidents reported so far, 10 percent have been targeted at LGBTQ+ communities.
"It's incredibly disheartening," Alibi regular Dwayne Nash said of Friday morning's apparent bias crime. "I have chills thinking that someone would think it was ever okay to make that expression...burn a flag that symbolizes acceptance for everyone who's born and is expressing their love."
Police don't currently know in what direction the suspect fled, and are asking the public's help in identifying him. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.