NEW YORK – A gunman used homophobic slurs before firing a fatal shot point-blank into a man’s face on a Manhattan street alive with a weekend midnight crowd, a killing New York’s police commissioner called a hate crime.
Before opening fire early Saturday, the gunman confronted the victim and his companion in Greenwich Village and asked if they “want to die here,” police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
The shooting follows a series of recent bias attacks on gay men in New York, but this was the first deadly one.
About 15 minutes before the bloodshed, the gunman was seen urinating outside an upscale restaurant a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, a birthplace of the gay rights movement, according to Kelly. He then went inside the restaurant and asked if someone was going to call the police about him.
Police said the gunman, identified later as 33-year-old Elliot Morales, told both the bartender and the manager, “if you do call the police, I’ll shoot you” and opened his sweatshirt to reveal a shoulder holster with a revolver and made anti-gay remarks, Kelly said.
Out on the street minutes later, the gunman and two others approached the 32-year-old victim, identified by police as Harlem resident Marc Carson, and a companion on Sixth Avenue. One of the three men yelled out, “What are you, gay wrestlers?” according to Kelly.
The two men stopped, turned and, according to Kelly, said to the group taunting them, “What did you say?” – then kept walking.
“There were no words that would aggravate the situation spoken by the victims here,” the commissioner said. “This fully looks to be a hate crime, a bias crime.”
Two of the men kept following the victim and his companion, Kelly said, adding that witnesses saw the pair approach from behind while repeating anti-gay slurs.
The gunman asked the men if they were together, and when he got an affirmative answer, Kelly said, “we believe that the perpetrator says to the victim, ‘Do you want to die here?’ ”
That’s when the suspect produced the revolver and fired one shot into Carson’s cheek, Kelly said.
The gunman fled to 3rd Street, where an officer who had heard a description on his radio spotted him and ordered him to stop, Kelly said.
Of the other recent New York bias attacks on gay men, one was reported last week on nearby Christopher Street, where a 35-year-old man told police he was beaten up and heard anti-gay words after leaving a bar.
The commissioner said Saturday that police were looking into possible links between the incidents.