SUNSET PARK — The man who attacked two teens outside a Sunset Park mosque early Sunday morning has been arrested, said police, but they are not classifying the incident as a hate crime.
Christopher Vallaro, 31, who police said lives in the neighborhood, surrendered Wednesday morning at the 72nd Precinct with his attorney.
He was charged with assault for beating up two teens, who are 16 and 17 years old, outside the Madine Muslim Community Center at Third Avenue and 53rd Street at around 1:15 a.m. Sunday, according to the NYPD.
The assault was triggered by a comment the teens made about the suspect's girlfriend, police said.
But in a video posted Monday, one of the teen victims of the attack said the suspect called him a "terrorist" and that he was brutally kicked for "no reason."
"While he was hitting me, he was calling me a terrorist. I didn't say anything," Ahmad Emrech, one of the victim's said in the video.
Both teens suffered bruising and eye injuries as a result of the attack. Emrech was left with a concussion and temporary memory loss, his older brother, Yousef, said in the video.
Elected officials and advocates applauded Vallaro's arrest, but called on the NYPD to fully investigate the suspect's motivation for the attack.
"We are glad that the attacker is in custody and are hopeful that law enforcement will thoroughly investigate the allegations of bias statements made during the attack. Ultimately, we seek justice that is commensurate to the brutality of the attack," Afaf Nasher, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-NY said in a statement Wednesday evening.
Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement, "I am pleased an arrest was made in the brutal beating of two teenage boys outside of the Muslim Community Center this weekend. I continue to urge the NYPD to investigate whether this act was a hate crime, given evidence of racial epithets and religious slurs used during the attack."
"We must remain vigilant in protecting every New Yorker from acts of violence, and ensure that our streets are safe for members of every community," she said.