Police search for suspects in alleged Chelsea bias attack

August 15, 2013 4:28:25 AM PDT
Police are searching for the suspects involved in an alleged bias beating in Chelsea, and Manhattan community leaders are coming together Thursday to raise awareness.

New York State Senator Brad Holyman and community leaders will be in Chelsea, handing out letters with the suspects' descriptions.

Michael Felenchak and Peter Nortman showed their scars from the beating, which happened along West 24th Street early Wednesday.

Police say two men shouting gay slurs confronted the men and began beating them. Four other men eventually joined in the attack.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," the 27-year-old Felenchak said, showing off the stitches above his chin and scrapes across his stomach. "It scares me. It upsets me. It's really awful."

The two men, who attending a news conference with City Council speaker Christine Quinn after the attack, were walking home, hand-in-hand, after catching a movie at the Clearview Cinemas on 23rd Street.

As they turned the corner onto 24th Street, the two men approached and shouted gay slurs, which led to the confrontation and assault.

"They either had brass knuckles or rings on their fingers, and it cut into my face and it dented it," Felenchak said. "So there is a hole right through my chin. So I had to get stitches...and my teeth hurt and my nose and my whole face aches."

The 53-year-old Nortman suffered scrapes to his head and face.

"First, they punched me so hard, I feel brass knuckles," Nortman said. "Then I fell on the floor, and I jumped back up and I got hit again. And then I tried to pull them down."

Police have stepped up patrols in the area as the search for the attackers continues. Sharon Stapel, the head of the New York City anti-violence project, says not responding to slurs or hateful speech is a good step towards preventing violence.

"De-escalating the situation and walking away from the situation can often be the thing that is safest in the moment," she said. "It may not be the most satisfying thing, but it is the safest thing generally."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn issued the following statement:

"I am appalled by reports that two men were senselessly beaten in Chelsea simply because they were perceived to be gay. Holding hands as they walked down West 24th Street, they were assaulted as their attackers hurled anti-gay slurs. The cowardly individuals who committed this crime do not represent New Yorkers and our community will not be cowed by such violence. New York City's greatest strength is our diversity, and we will not stand for attacks against anyone, for any reason."

Anyone with information about these assaults is urged to contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-866-313-TIPS.