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A man who lives just a block from VERS on 9th Avenue was charged Tuesday with being the serial attacker who targeted the Hell’s Kitchen LGBTQIA+ venue four times in four weeks — and said on his way into court: “I’m gay myself.” Sean Kuilan, 34, was caught on video by the New York Post acknowledging he threw the bricks, and saying his serial attacks were “something personal.”
Police took Kuilan into custody on W48th St on Tuesday morning after a tip-off to ABC7 New’s Derick Waller from a viewer who saw security footage showing the alleged attacker calmly buying soda after his assault.
The NYPD told W42ST that Kuilan is charged with three counts of criminal mischief, three counts of reckless endangerment, and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon. The charges do not include hate crimes, although the attacks had prompted a hate crimes investigation.
In a New York Post video, Kuilan confessed to photographers and when asked “why did you target gay people?” replied: “I’m gay myself.” Pressed on what it was about, he said: “Something personal.” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig told the Post that Kuilan had claimed to officers that “he knows a girl who had a problem with one of the guys in the bar and he was ‘exacting revenge.'” Kuilan’s reported claims cannot be independently verified.
The most recent attack, on Saturday night, had taken place hours before the mass shooting murders of five people at LGBTQIA+ nightclub The Q in Colorado Springs. VERS’ owners had promised to defy the attacks and stay open, despite being targeted three times in the past week.
Police released footage on Monday showing new pictures of the serial attacker. This prompted a viewer to pass a name to ABC7 News’ Waller, who gave it to police and witnessed the arrest on W48th Street around the corner from VERS. W42ST has reached out to the NYPD for comment and will update.
Separately, Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted the attack on VERS as she spoke out against hate crimes, saying it was a reminder of the danger of those “filled with hate in their hearts,” and adding: “We all have a God-given right to walk the streets, go where we want to go to worship, be safe in our homes, our subways and in our clubs.”
The governor said state police were stepping up their monitoring of social media in the wake of a series of alleged hate crimes, including the arrest of two men at Penn Station on Saturday morning who were plotting to attack the Jewish community. She also announced two bills, which will mandate a state-wide campaign against hate crimes, and new conditions on the release of convicted attackers.
The attacks on VERS started four weeks ago, with two more last week, including one on Wednesday, before Saturday night’s assault which was clearly captured on video. The man now identified as Kuilan was seen throwing a brick at VERS at 9.59pm, then walking away towards W49th Street before turning back towards W48th Street. In the final seconds of the footage, he is seen to turn to another man outside VERS and point up the street, as if to suggest the perpetrator had gone towards W49th Street.
Then in footage released by police Monday Kuilan is seen nonchalantly shopping in a bodega a couple of minutes after the attack, picking a can of soda out of a fridge and paying for it in cash.
VERS owner David DeParolesa and his partner Aidan Davis said they had installed shatter-proof glass before the bar opened in July, precisely because of concerns about anti-gay attacks.
In a statement to W42ST he and Davis said: “As members of the LGBTQ community, we often have to create our own safe spaces — and put systems in place to try and ensure that any bad actors are unsuccessful. That’s why we created VERS, and why we remain open for business. It’s also why we have windows made of shatterproof glass. It’s a sad reality that we have to take those steps, but it’s a reality nonetheless. We are undeterred and unflinchingly focused on continuing to provide our patrons, our peers and our community at large with a fun, welcoming and safe space.”
This afternoon, Council member Erik Bottcher told W42ST: “Following a series of brick attacks against Vers, an LGBTQ+ nightlife venue in my district, our community is relieved to learn an arrest has been made in connection with this case. While we await details on the attacker’s motive, it’s clear that these attacks were intended to strike fear into the bar’s patrons and our entire community. There must be zero tolerance for the targeting of marginalized and vulnerable communities. Anyone contemplating an attack on our community should know that we will not be cowed, we will not be intimidated, we will not be chased back into the closet. New York City is a symbol of diversity and freedom throughout the world, and we will always stand up against hate of all kinds. I want to thank the NYPD’s Midtown North Precinct and Hate Crimes Task Force for their work on this case.”