Updated 07/10/2010 11:09 AM
Attack On S.I. Gay Couple Classified As Hate Crime
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Police were investigating Friday what appears to be another hate crime on Staten Island.
Richard and Luis Vieira, a married gay couple, were inside a Stapleton White Castle restaurant at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, when they were approached by three men.
One of the suspects allegedly yelled a homophobic slur at the Vieiras and punched Luis Vieira on the side of the head.
"This guy walked away, turned around came back, and punched my partner in the head, which I didn't find very nice, and I don't appreciate it," said Richard Vieira. "That was a very terrible thing to see."
Following the attack, Luis Vieira attempted to re-enter the restaurant, but when he noticed Richard wasn't with him, he came back outside and found his partner lying in a pool of blood.
"I freaked, I'll be honest with you. I freaked," said Luis Vieira. "I thought maybe he had been shot, maybe he had been stabbed."
Both men were treated at Staten Island University Hospital, where Richard Vieira received dozens of stitches from being hit several times.
Both men feel the group targeted them for wearing wrist bands and clothing that identified them as homosexual.
The couple has been together for 13 years and married two years ago in Massachusetts. They say the attack will not make fear a part of their lives.
"I'm not going to be afraid. If I let the fear get to me, then it won. But it's not going to win," said Richard Vieira.
The Vieiras said they did not feel local police took the case seriously and on Friday they met with a special anti-hate crime task force.
The couple told NY1 they wished people would take such attacks more seriously.
"The next person that comes along might not be talking to you at all, and I hope that doesn't come to that," said Luis Vieira.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.
Earlier Friday, police said they were also investigating Wednesday's beating of a Mexican worker in Port Richmond as a hate crime.
Congressman Michael McMahon said he is working on a hate crime bill, and earlier this week City Councilwoman Debi Rose said she will meet on Monday with elected officials, community leaders and members of law enforcement behind closed doors to discuss plans to arrest perpetrators and prevent future attacks.
The Department of Justice is also holding a public meeting on Thursday, July 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Catholic Youth Organization Center at 120 Anderson Avenue in Port Richmond.