SUNSET PARK — An attack on two teens outside a Sunset Park mosque on Sunday is not being classified as a hate crime, according to police, who said the incident was sparked when the victims started flirting with the suspect’s girlfriend.
The teens, who are 16 and 17 years old, were outside the Madine Muslim Community Center at Third Avenue and 53rd Street around 1:15 a.m. when they saw the suspect and his girlfriend, according to the NYPD.
The teens made a comment about the suspect’s girlfriend, angering him and triggering a violent retaliation, police said.
“They were hitting on her,” a police spokeswoman told DNAinfo, adding that the NYPD is not investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Police say they have identified the suspect, but no arrests have been made.
Mohamed Bahe, the mosque’s director, told BuzzFeed News the teens were beaten after a long day of prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.
Bahe told the website the teens saw a car with tinted windows on 53rd Street and were suspicious following the high number of incidents involving prostitution and drugs in that area.
“We had two volunteers, and they saw a suspicious car parked outside of our entrance. They looked at the car, trying to figure out who’s inside. They saw a woman and they asked if she needed help. Then all of a sudden a guy comes across running from the street and punches him and knocks him down. He was stomping him and kicking him,” Bahe told BuzzFeed News.
The other teen, who ran away when the attack started, heard the suspect yell, “You f---ing terrorist” as he punched the first teen, and ran back, but was also attacked by the suspect, Bahe told BuzzFeed.
Bahe was not immediately available for comment.
Police said the suspect fled following the attack and that the victims refused medical attention at the scene.
Muslims Giving Back, a nonprofit associated with the community center, said in a Facebook post that one teen had a concussion after the attacker repeatedly kicked him in the face.
The group also says the teens heard the suspect call one of them a “terrorist” as he was punching him.
“One of the victims heard the attacker shout "Terrorist!" while being punched to the ground. This is absolutely a HATE crime. We are urging our community, our activists, our leaders, to help us make sure the NYPD 72nd precinct files this as a hate crime and catch the perpetrator,” says the Facebook post.
Elected officials like Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz are also calling on the NYPD to investigate the attack as a hate crime.
“I am deeply disgusted by the assault of two Muslim teenagers that occurred outside of their mosque early this holiday weekend. This type of hate and violence will never be tolerated in New York City, especially during the holy month of Ramadan,” James said Monday in a statement.
“I urge the NYPD to investigate this as a hate crime, and continue to call on all New Yorkers to report hate crimes against any and all communities. New York City should be a safe haven for people from all walks of life and we must do all we can to prevent these vicious and hateful attacks.”