Man accused of hate crimes for allegedly stealing pro-Israel flag, beating Long Island homeowner

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Tuesday, February 6, 2024
LI homeowner assaulted in violent hate crime attack: police
Lindsay Tuchman has the story.

HEWLETT, Long Island (WABC) -- Police on Long Island arrested a man they say was wanted in a brutal hate crime attack this week.

The suspect was caught on camera stealing a pro-Israel flag from the front lawn of a home in Hewlett on Feb. 4.

Authorities say the incident took a violent turn when the homeowner confronted the suspect.

Nassau County Police identified 26-year-old Bechir Lehbeib, an asylum seeker from North Africa, as the suspect who took the flag and gestured crudely to the man it belonged before he allegedly attacked him and threatened him.

"Basically saying, 'kill all the Jews' and other heinous crimes and indignities," said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Nassau County officials held a news conference about Sunday's attack on Tuesday.

Police say Lehbeib approached the home, which proudly displayed the flag as well as a sign reading "We stand with Israel," grabbed them both and left.

The 38-year-old resident Steven Drive chased the man on foot, then on a bicycle, and caught up to him.

Officials say Lehbeib punched him, threw him to the ground and continued hitting him - before eventually saying he was Palestinian and making threatening statements and running away.

"The victim reports being battered about the face repeatedly and being headbutted during the course of the altercation, all of which caused caused contusions, swelling and substantial pain to his head," said First Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Smith.

According to officials, Lehbeib is an undocumented migrant who came to the U.S. from North Africa this past November. He had been staying both in a migrant shelter on Staten Island as well as a home in Jamaica, Queens.

He is now under arrest and charged with robbery, assault and criminal mischief all as hate crimes.

"Crimes committed because of our religion, the color of our skin, the way we dress or who we love will be prosecuted vigorously," said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly.

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