Gay Man Slain In Greenwich Village: Is Homophobia On The Rise In NYC?
"You want to die tonight?" 33-year-old Elliot Morales reportedly asked Mark Carson, right before he allegedly shot Carson point-blank in the face with a silver Taurus .38-caliber revolver in New York City's Greenwich Village.
According to eyewitnesses, prior to gunning down his victim around midnight Friday, Morales trailed 32-year-old Carson, who was walking with a companion on Sixth Avenue near Eighth Street, and hurled homophobic epithets at him. He even called Carson and his friend "faggots" and "queers."
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When Morales finally asked if Carson's companion was his boyfriend, Carson reportedly responded "Yes." That's when Morales is believed to have shot Carson in the cheek.
Police found the victim lying with half on his body on the sidewalk and half in the street outside of the Gray's Papaya restaurant. He was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Hospital.
Carson was murdered just a few blocks from The Stonewall Inn, the nightclub and bar often regarded as the birthplace of the U.S. gay rights movement. Police arrested Morales shortly after the slaying.
"Yeah, I shot him in the head," Morales told cops as they handcuffed him, according to The New York Post. Morales supposedly laughed about the homicide as well.
Court records show that Morales is being held without bail on charges of second degree murder as a hate crime, menacing and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. According to the Daily Mail, Morales was acting crazy at the time of his arrest, leading detectives to test the alleged shooter's blood to see if he was on drugs.
Morales also has six prior arrests, including one for attempted murder in 1998.
Homicide Motivated By Homophobia
In a neighborhood where same-sex couples often walk hand-in-hand without incident, it's hard to imagine such a blatant and violent act of homophobia occurring there. Still, even in one of the city's most accepting communities, people with nefarious agendas find a way to breach the walls of tolerance that surround it.
"It's clear that the victim here was killed only because, and just because, he was thought to be gay," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Sunday. "There's no question about that. There were derogatory remarks. This victim did nothing to antagonize or instigate the shooter. It was only because the shooter believed him to be gay."
According to the NYPD, this is the 22nd anti-gay hate crime in the city this year, compared to 13 incidents by this time last year.
Friday night's shooting is at least the fourth violent attack in two weeks believed to be motivated by anti-gay bias, police told CNN. On May 10, a gay couple was brutally beaten on West 32nd Street when a group of five men followed them, shouting slurs and eventually attacking them. The two victims were left with bruises and cuts all over their faces -- one of them even needed eye surgery, My Fox NY reports.
A few days earlier, a gay couple was jumped outside Madison Square Garden during a New York Knicks game at the nearby Garden.
In light of huge developments in gay rights across the country, including the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota, the fresh spate of anti-gay violence in NYC shows that same-sex couples still face dangers in every society, no matter how progressive.
Is homophobia in the city on the rise?
Hate Crimes 'Sad Reminder' That Gay People Still At Danger
The FBI reports that of all the hate crimes in the country since 1991, 14 percent were motivated by sexual orientation bias, and that the number of incidences has increased steadily since the department first started taking note of hate crime rates in 1992. And in the bureau's 2011 report of single-bias hate crime, hate crimes against gay people ticked up from 2010, to 20.8 percent of all incidents.
"Sexual orientation bias hate crimes now trump religious bias (19.8 percent), ethnicity/national origin bias (11.6 percent) and disability bias (0.9 percent) hate crimes," Metro Weekly reported in 2011.
"The 2011 FBI hate crimes data is a sad reminder that even as we make great strides toward equality under the law, LGBT people in face dangers in America," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws that criminalize various kinds of bias-motivated violence; but, only 31 of them include sexual orientation as a protected category.
According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, or DCJS, of all the hate crimes in New York State in 2010, almost 20 percent of them were motivated by sexual orientation. Of the 137 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation that year, 114 of them, or 83 percent, were targeted at men. It is the third most frequently reported bias motivation for hate offenses behind anti-black and anti-Jewish crimes.
"Until we rid our society of the discrimination that allows us to be seen as inferior and less than human, we will never truly be safe, even in one of the most accepting cities in the world," Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, spokesperson Wilson Cruz said in a statement.
The anti-defamation group will host a march tonight at 5:30, starting at the site of Friday's shooting. You can read details of the event here.
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