A hunt is underway for an attacker who tried to smash the windows of VERS bar in Hell’s Kitchen as many as four times in a week in a suspected hate crimes spree, Councilmember Erik Bottcher said Sunday. The suspected serial attacker last struck on Saturday night, shortly before five men were murdered at an LGBTQIA+ bar in Colorado Springs by a mass shooter.
The man was seen on security camera footage throwing a brick at VERS on 9th Avenue at 9.59pm on Saturday night, then walking away towards W49th Street before turning back towards W48th Street. In the final seconds of the footage, he is seen to turn towards to another man outside VERS and point up the street as if to suggest the perpetrator had gone towards W49th Street.
Councilmember Erik Bottcher tweeted Sunday: “This man has thrown bricks at the window of @versbarnyc FOUR times in recent weeks. These are hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community.” He appealed for witnesses to help the NYPD find the attacker, whose attacks took place in course of just seven days.
VERS owner David DeParolesa and his partner Aidan Davis said they could not be sure that it was the same attacker each time, but it was clear the attacks were attempts to “intimidate” the LGBTQIA+ community. DeParolesa 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: “This is the fourth time someone has thrown a brick at our window — the third time this week alone — and while we don’t know for certain it was the same person each time, we do know that there is a person or multiple people who have made it their mission to intimidate and attempt to harm our patrons.
“We urgently need to find this person before they escalate their attack or set their sights on our peers in the community. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we want to do everything in our power — right now — to keep other bars and queer spaces in the neighborhood safe.
“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.”
Disturbingly, the incident occurred shortly before another deadly attack on a queer space, as a mass shooter entered Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and murdered five people in the crowded bar, as well as wounding 19 more, before being wrestled to the ground by heroes who managed to stop the death toll being higher.
The mass shooting is being treated as a hate crime. Club Q was described as a rare safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community in Colorado Springs by Tim Curran, a copy editor for CNN’s Early Start, who said he goes there with his boyfriend when he visits family. He told CNN: “Club Q has a very tight knit community because they’re in the most conservative, big city in Colorado by far and there’s a lot of free-floating homophobia in the city.”
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The apparent hate attack in Hell’s Kitchen also comes after the deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger, who were both robbed and left to die after nights out at LGBTQIA+ venues in April and June. Both men’s deaths, and as many as a dozen similar robberies in which the victims survived, are being investigated by the NYPD and the District Attorney amid criticism of their response being too slow and failing to link Julio’s and John’s deaths until earlier this month.
If you have information about the VERS attacks, contact the @NYPDHateCrimes unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-440-HATE.