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Alleged murderer Elliot Morales is being charged with a hate crime after he taunted and fatally shot a gay Brooklyn resident on Saturday.
The victim, Mark Carson, and his friend were walking through lower Manhattan when, unprompted, Morales and others hurled anti-gay slurs at the two, police said. Morales then shot Carson "point-blank in the face," reports USA Today.
Any senseless murder is heinous and tragic, but what exactly makes this an alleged hate crime?
New York Hate Crime Laws
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly explained that the shooting "fully looks to be a hate crime," noting that victim did nothing to provoke the shooter and they had no prior relationship, New York's 1010 WINS radio reports.
Under New York law, a hate crime can be committed when the target of a crime is selected based on beliefs surrounding their:
In Carson's case, police believe he was singled out by Morales because he and his friend were gay.
Slurs + Attack = Hate Crime?
Even a simple assault when coupled with a derogatory slur can be considered a hate crime. That's what happened in a prior case in Connecticut, in which a man hurled racial insults at a cabbie and then stabbed him.
Morales' charges describe a much clearer situation in which the victim was allegedly pursued and killed by someone who asked if he and his friend were "gay wrestlers," as 1010 WINS reported.
A potential defense for Morales is that he and his friends were just joking about the anti-gay slurs based on how Carson and his companion were dressed. But it seems likely that a jury will connect these verbal assaults to the killing.
Hate Crimes on The Rise
NYC's openly gay City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christie Quinn registered her shock and disgust at the attack, stating New York City will not return to a time where gays feared violence for holding hands in the street, reports the New York Post.
As of 2012, New York was not among the Top 10 states with respect to hate crimes. But Carson's shooting is the fourth violent anti-gay attack to occur in the last two weeks in New York City, reports CNN.
With proper enforcement of these hate crime laws, these discriminatory assaults will hopefully diminish.