NEW YORK — Eight members of a Bronx, NY street gang are in custody, after they allegedly beat and tortured a new recruit they thought was gay, and two other men in separate, gruesome assaults earlier this week.
The suspects, ranging in age from 16 to 23, have been charged with assault, unlawful imprisonment, sodomy, and menacing hate crimes. A ninth suspect is still at large.
In the first incident, the suspected gay recruit, a 17-year-old male, was forced into an unoccupied apartment early Sunday morning. “He was beaten and sodomized with the wooden handle of a plunger,” according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
The attackers shouted anti-gay slurs during the attack, he said.
In the subsequent attacks, the gang members allegedly lured another 17-year-old victim, and a 30-year-old man to the same apartment with a story that there was a party there. The gang believed that both teens had gay encounters with the older male.
The 30-year-old victim was reportedly stripped, beaten and sodomized with a small baseball bat, according to police.
At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn denounced the attacks.
Bloomberg said he was “sickened” by the violence, which came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of teen suicides attributed to it last month around the country.
“Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them,” Bloomberg said. “The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”
Quinn, the city’s highest-ranking openly gay official, called the attacks “vile” and “horrifying.”
“These attacks are appalling and are even more despicable because the victims were clearly targeted in acts of hate simply because they are gay,” Quinn said. “The cowardly few who committed these crimes do not represent New Yorkers, and our community will not be cowed by such violence.”
And earlier Saturday, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued the this statement:
“It is tragic to see what hate can do. These three men were brutally attacked and sodomized simply for who they are,” Solmonese said.
“Authorities must vigorously prosecute the perpetrators of these hateful crimes. Unfortunately, these crimes come on the heels of several other recently reported hate crimes in New York City. These crimes only emphasize the need for strong federal and state hate crimes laws.”
The suspects arrested Thursday and Friday were identified as Ildefonzo Mendez, 23; David Rivera, 21; four 17-year-olds, Steven Caraballo, Denis Peitars, Nelson Falu and Bryan Almonte; and Brian Cepeda, 16. The eighth suspect, Elmer Confresi, 23, turned himself in on Saturday.
All are believed to members of the Latin King Goonies street gang.
Kelly said that a lawyer representing the ninth suspect had arranged for his client to turn himself in, but never showed.