Hate crime charge pursued in killing of gay man in New York

The AP

The man who police say hurled homophobic slurs at a gay man on a Manhattan street before firing a single fatal shot to his head appeared in court on May 19 to face a charge of murder as a hate crime.

Elliot Morales, who appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court, is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, according to the complaint filed Sunday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Authorities said the Greenwich Village resident used a silver revolver to kill 32-year-old Mark Carson early May 18 as he walked with a companion in Morales’ neighborhood.

Morales was ordered held without bail pending another court appearance on May 23. His attorney, Reginald Sharpe, could not be reached for comment.

On May 18, seconds before opening fire in the lively Village streets just after midnight, police say Morales followed Carson and a companion through the Village, asking if they “want to die here,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Police said Morales then yelled anti-gay slurs before shooting Carson point-blank in the face in a neighborhood long known as a bedrock of the gay rights movement.

Morales was soon arrested a few blocks away.

He has a previous arrest for attempted murder in 1998, police said. Details of that arrest weren’t immediately clear.

The New York Daily News reported that Morales allegedly confessed to police – and laughed about shooting Carson.

The shooting scene is a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to gay rights when patrons reacted to police harassment.

The killing follows a spate of recent bias attacks on gay men in New York. Kelly said police were looking into possible links between the incidents.

The shooting stunned a city where, in many neighborhoods, same-sex couples now walk freely holding hands. It also comes at a time when the gay marriage movement is gaining momentum in many parts of the United States. Twelve states have legalized same-sex marriage, including New York in 2011.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project and other activist groups were planning a march and rally against anti-LGBT violence for the night of May 20.

Also, activists planned to do outreach in neighborhoods on Friday nights throughout May and June.

Meanwhile, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, issued a statement regarding the series of anti-gay crimes and the hate-motivated killing of Carson. Chad Griffin said, “When an innocent person can be beaten or killed simply on the basis of their identity, something is profoundly sick and wrong. There’s not an LGBT person who didn’t hear about this horrendous murder and think: ‘that could have been me.'”

“As long as discrimination remains a feature of this nation’s laws, as long as second class citizenship trickles down into our schools and our communities, these crimes and the terror they instill will never stop.”

“We pledge liberty and justice for all, but every one of us has a duty to make those words a reality. We can’t be patient and simply wait for equality, because the next Mark Carson is running out of time right now. Equality is an urgent fight – a fight that continues until our nation’s laws treat all our citizens equally, with respect and dignity, in all parts of our lives. This is a fight that involves all Americans who believe in civil rights and equality for every citizen.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with victims’ families, and we thank the police and other agencies for their full and ongoing investigation of these heinous acts.”