NEW YORK CITY — An armed man with a homophobic grudge shot and killed a 32-year-old gay man in Greenwich Village early Saturday morning, the city police commissioner said.
The victim, Mark Carson, 32, of Harlem, was shot once in the cheek after an unprovoked confrontation during which the suspect, Elliot Morales, 33, called him and his companion "faggots," "queers" and "gay wrestlers", police said.
"This clearly looks to be a hate crime, a biased crime," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a Saturday morning press conference.
The murder would mark the the 22nd hate crime in the city this year, said Kelly, nearly double the amount for all of 2012.
Morales reportedly laughed gleefully as he confessed to the crime, the Daily News reported.
The shooting happened at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West Eighth Street just after midnight after what police describe as night of confrontations between the alleged shooter and people in the neighborhood.
Morales, who was arrested in 1998 for attempted murder, was first seen urinating outside Annisa on Barrow and West 4th streets, Kelly said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference.
He then went into the restaurant and taunted the bartender and the manager over what he had done.
"Did you see what I was doing?" the commissioner quoted the suspect saying. "You should call the police."
Morales also made some anti-gay remarks, Kelly said. He then lifted his grey hoodie and showed the bartender his silver handgun, then threatened to shoot him if he called the police, the commissioner said.
Kelly also said the Morales made another comment about the massacre of school children in Sandy Hook, Conn in Dec 2012.
"You know Sandy Hook," he allegedly said. "I'm wanted."
Morales left with two friends, heading toward Sixth Avenue where he got into an argument with Carson and a friend.
"Look at these faggots. What are you, gay wrestlers?" the commissioner quoted him asking the men.
Carson and his companion stopped and asked, "What did you say?" before continuing down the sidewalk.
At some point, cops said, Morales's friend asked him "Are you sure you want to do this?"
The alleged gunman and one other man followed Carson and his companion. Witnesses heard the men say "queer" and "faggot" at least two times, Kelly said. They stopped Carson and his friend across Sixth Avenue from Gray's Papaya at the corner of West Eighth Street.
"Do you want to die here?" the commissioner said Morales asked Carson. He then asked, "Are you with him?"
Carson said, "Yes."
That's when Morales allegedly raised his silver pistol and fired one round point-blank into Carson's face, Kelly said.
He fled on foot to MacDougal and West Third streets where Police Officer Henry Huot recognized him from a description, according to the police account. When ordered to stop, the Morales, who lives in Alphabet City, knelt down, threw down his weapon, but fumbled the weapon, according to prosecutors and was arrested. Three rounds of live ammunition were still in the weapon, prosecutors said.
Morales was charged with two counts of murder as a hate crime, weapons possession and menacing, according to court papers.
He was held without bail and is expected to return to court on May 23.
Carson was taken to Beth Israel where he was declared dead on arrival.
A former neighbor of Carson's, Kay Allen, said described him as a "proud gay man, a fabulous gay man."
She said they worked together for three years at the Time Square Toys 'R Us, but he had since gotten a different job after that selling frozen yougurt store Downtown.
"He's a hard worker," she said. "His goal was to get out of the 'hood."
Carson seemed to get along with everyone uptown, she said.
"You would think in the projects that people wouldn't like him, people liked him," Allen said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn chimed in, denouncing the murder as a hate crime. The fourth of its kind in her district in the last two weeks.
"I am horrified to learn that last night, a gay man was murdered in my district after being chased out of a Greenwich Village restaurant and assailed by homophobic slurs. I stand with all New Yorkers in condemning this attack," she said in a statement. "This kind of shocking and senseless violence, so deeply rooted in hate, has no place in a City whose greatest strength will always be its diversity."