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Anti-gay crime up in New York as city prepares for pride events

By Erinn Cawthon and Sarah Aarthun, CNN
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 0237 GMT (1037 HKT)
The names of victims of bias crimes are displayed on ribbons Wednesday in New York City.
The names of victims of bias crimes are displayed on ribbons Wednesday in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anti-gay hate crimes up over 70%, police commissioner says
  • Two more attacks occurred this week
  • Police are stepping up their presence in LGBT neighborhoods

New York (CNN) -- Police in New York are stepping up their presence in neighborhoods with large gay and lesbian communities after a string of recent attacks on residents based on their sexual orientation.

"Hate crimes are down this year, almost 30%, but anti-gay hate crimes are up over 70%," Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday, hours after the latest incident in which a gay couple walking in the city's SoHo district were assaulted by two men shouting homophobic slurs. One of the victims suffered an eye injury. Two men, Fabian Ortiz and Pedro Jimenez, were arrested and charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime, Kelly said.

And late Monday, another man was left unconscious after being struck in the face and head several times when he revealed he was gay to another man.

The suspect, identified as 39-year-old Roman Gornell -- "became enraged, and yelled anti-gay expletives," Kelly said. Gornell has been charged with assault and harassment as hate crimes in the incident.

The rash of violence has caught the attention of city leaders, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who addressed the issue at a news conference Tuesday.

"No person -- regardless of what they look like or who they love -- should ever walk down the street in fear," Bloomberg said.

In the past two weeks, five crimes against those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have occurred throughout Manhattan's West Side, according to the New York City Council.

In the most violent incident, 32-year-old Marc Carson was shot and killed in Greenwich Village early Saturday by a gunman who allegedly made multiple anti-gay comments before the shooting. Elliot Morales faces a charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime in the shooting, authorities said.

In response, police are setting up temporary headquarter command vehicles in LGBT neighborhoods at least through the end of June -- the city's Gay Pride month.

"Investigators say there's no pattern in these types of crimes," Kelly said Tuesday. "These types of crimes are outrageous. And we are going to do everything in our power to see to it that they certainly don't occur but if they do occur we're going to very aggressively investigate them and bring people to justice."

Carson's killing inspired a march Monday by city leaders and members of the LGBT community to the spot where Carson was slain.

After the march, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced a five-point plan for keeping the city's LGBT residents safe. In addition to an increased police presence in LGBT neighborhoods, the plan calls for lessons in schools that address hate crimes and bullying.

"It was a cold-blooded hate crime that cut short a life full of promise -- and brought back awful memories for people who were once afraid to walk down the street with the person that they loved. New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance," Bloomberg said of Carson's killing.

Erinn Cawthon reported from New York. Sarah Aarthun wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Kristina Sgueglia and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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