Mount Vernon police investigating death as possible hate crime

MOUNT VERNON, New York (WABC) -- Police in Mount Vernon are investigating the death of a 35-year-old man as a possible hate crime.

Michael Jones, known as Chris to his friends and family, was discovered on Eastchester Avenue Tuesday, with the victim suffering from head injuries.

Jones was transported to an area hospital, where he later died.

Authorities are looking into whether Jones was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

According to preliminary police reports, Jones was in an altercation and either fell or was pushed, striking his head on the curb. The circumstances of the dispute and why it may be a bias attack were not released.

"Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of this individual," Mayor Richard Thomas said. "Those that seek to attack people to install fear in communities due to race, religion, or sexual orientation are cowards and will face justice. Mount Vernon is a city of inclusion and despicable acts of intimidation will not be tolerated."

His death and the nature of the investigation have left many in the community shocked.

"You could never hate Chris, he had a warm heart, a heart of gold," said one resident. "He wouldn't hurt nobody. If he had it, he would give the shirt off his back."

Police are looking into Jones' recent past. "It's been reported that he has had altercations in days prior, and that's one of the leads that we're following," said Acting Police Commissioner Shawn Harris.

Mayor Thomas directed the Mount Vernon Police Department to work with the FBI, the New York State Police's Hate Crime Unit and others in law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the possible hate crime.

"Mount Vernon has become significantly safer, with crime dropping 22 percent from 2012 levels," acting police commissioner Shawn Harris said. "However, this loss appears to be a deeply personal conflict that may be a hate crime."

The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
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