A Brooklyn man was fatally shot in the West Village around midnight Friday and the alleged gunman was charged with murder as a hate crime because authorities believe he made anti-gay remarks right before firing his revolver.
Mark Carson, 32, was shot point-blank in the face at West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue by a Gray's Papaya restaurant. He was rushed to Beth Israel Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The alleged gunman, 33-year-old Elliot Morales of Manhattan, was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.
Police say Morales refused to identify himself or get fingerprinted and was carrying several fake IDs, and was finally identified by the NYPD Facial Recognition Unit.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said about 15 minutes before the shooting, Morales was urinating on the outside wall of a West Village bar. The suspect then walked into the bar, called the bartender anti-gay slurs and threatened him with a revolver.
Morales left the bar, joined two other men outside, and then the three men confronted Carson, who was walking on Sixth Avenue with another man.
Kelly said, "One of them stopped and said to the two walking north, 'Look at these f-----s, what are you, gay wrestlers?' Words to that effect. The two men stopped, turned back and said to the three, 'What did you say?'"
The commissioner said Carson and his friend kept walking, not knowing they were being followed.
A short while later, witnesses saw the suspect come up behind Carson and use anti-gay slurs once again.
Kelly said Morales yelled at Carson, "Do you want to die here?"
Morales next asked Carson, "Are you with him?" and when Carson answered "Yes," the commissioner said that was when Morales fired the fatal shot.
The alleged shooter fled to MacDougal Street and West 3rd Street, where he was questioned by Police Officer Henry Huot, who had just heard about the shooting on police radio.
Morales pulled a silver Taurus .38 caliber revolver on Huot, but dropped the gun before the officer arrested him. According to the Manhattan DA's office, the gun was loaded with three bullets.
Another two men were also in police custody on Saturday in connection with the shooting, according to Kelly.
Within hours of the shooting, police were investigating the incident as a hate crime. On his Facebook profile, Carson said he was interested in other men.
"This clearly looks to be a hate crime, a bias crime. There was no words that would aggravate the situation spoken by the victims here. They were confronted," Kelly said. "They did not know the perpetrators, no previous relationship."
Carson's former neighbors in Harlem are grieving, and said they could not understand why anyone would want to harm, let alone kill, him.
"He was always there for you, always happy. He was never down, wanted to keep you up," said one neighbor.
"If he couldn't help you, he wouldn't hurt you. I don't why anyone would do something like to hurt such a beautiful soul," said another neighbor.
Friends said Carson had recently moved from Harlem to Brooklyn and was supposed to return for a neighbor's housewarming party.
Two openly gay lawmakers who represent the area, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Brad Hoylman, released statements Saturday that condemn the incident.
"I am horrified to learn that last night, a gay man was murdered in my district after being chased out of a Greenwich Village restaurant and assailed by homophobic slurs. I stand with all New Yorkers in condemning this attack," Quinn says in part. "This kind of shocking and senseless violence, so deeply rooted in hate, has no place in a city whose greatest strength will always be its diversity."
Hoylman says in part, "I am outraged by the recent wave of anti-LGBT violence in our city and it is shocking and extremely distressing that a man was shot to death just this morning apparently because he was gay. Nobody anywhere should have to live with fear of harm because of his or her sexual orientation.... I applaud the NYPD for making a swift arrest in this case and call on all New Yorkers to unite against hate and gun violence."
Audrey Alford, a theater director walking by the crime scene on Saturday, told NY1 she is currently directing two LGBT-themed plays, to increase understanding, awareness, and love.
"I will never understand why people think it's OK to just beat somebody up or shoot them because they're gay," Alford said.
Kelly said Saturday's shooting is the 22nd bias crime investigation in the city this year, and at least the third anti-gay attack in three weeks.
Last week, authorities say two separate bias attacks against gay men took place in Midtown.