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New York City seeing spike in anti-gay crime, officials say

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City is seeing a spike in anti-gay attacks, with two assaults coming within days of the fatal shooting of a gay man over the weekend, the city's police commissioner said on Tuesday.

Two men in their early 40s were attacked on a street in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood early on Tuesday morning by two men who shouted anti-gay slurs in Spanish and English and left one victim with a minor eye injury, police said.

Late on Monday night, a 45-year-old man was beaten unconscious after spending the evening at bars in Manhattan's East Village with a man he met at a homeless shelter where they both were staying, police said.

The attacks followed the killing on Friday of Mark Carson, 32, who was shot in the head in what police are calling a hate crime in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood often described as the cradle of the gay-rights movement in the United States.

Carson, who was openly gay, was shot by a gunman shouting anti-gay slurs, police say. A suspect identified as Elliot Morales, 33, was arrested on a charge of second degree murder as a hate crime shortly afterward.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appearing with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a news conference on Tuesday, called the attacks "despicable."

"He was murdered because of his sexual orientation, and only because of his sexual orientation," Bloomberg said of Carson, adding, "New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance.

"We are a place that celebrates diversity, a place where people come from around the world to live free of prejudice and persecution," he said.

The two non-fatal attacks followed a march on Monday evening held to protest Carson's slaying. The march was attended by several candidates in this year's election to succeed Bloomberg as mayor, including Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council. If elected, Quinn would be New York's first female and openly gay mayor.

The police commissioner said 29 anti-gay attacks have been reported in New York City this year, up from 14 in the same period last year, even as hate crimes overall have declined almost 30 percent.

Kelly said officials did not believe the anti-gay crimes were connected. He said there was no simple explanation for the apparent spike, but suggested it may be the result of more victims coming forward.

"We don't really see patterns in hate crimes," Kelly said. "We believe they are underreported generally, so when we have a particularly heinous crime like we had on Friday night, people are perhaps more likely to report it."

Two men, Fabian Ortiz, 32, of Manhattan, and Pedro Jimenez, 23, of Brooklyn, were arrested soon after the SoHo attack and charged with assault as a hate crime.

The victim in the East Village attack spoke to police after being released from a hospital on Tuesday, telling them he had chatted in a friendly way with the man who would later attack him.

"Suddenly, according to the victim, his assailant just snapped and became enraged," Kelly said.

Police are seeking Roman Gornell, 39, who has been arrested about 20 times, mostly on drug-related charges, in connection with that attack, Kelly said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and David Gregorio)

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