02 November 2007

NYPD Investigates Alleged Howard Beach Hate Crime

Dec. 27, 1986, an enlightened crowd screams obscenities and heckles civil rights leaders marching against racism in Howard Beach.

Oh, Howard Beach. I can't hear your name without thinking of Biohazard and 1986. I hear Howard Beach and I think the '86 Mets playing hot foot in the dugout, Bernie Goetz, Ed Koch and Robert Chambers.

Quite an eerie and wild time for New York City. Light years from what its like now. No M&M Village in Times Square. There was lawlessness and anger in the air; the subways were still covered in graffiti and the steam from the subway grates would still silhouette dudes playing saxophones for change even in the deepest winter freeze. At that time, New York lived up to its stereotype of colourful grime and sometimes crime. The way New York looked in Crocodile Dundee circa 1986 is how it really did look at the time.

Sadly, Howard Beach, the little neighbourhood in southwestern Queens; nestled betwixt the Belt Parkway, Conduit Avenue and sweet smelling Jamaica Bay, will always remind me of that incident in the winter of 1986 when three black men were assaulted by several local neighbourhood thugs.

In the 1980's, several racially motivated attacks dominated the headlines of New York City newspapers. On September 15, 1983, artist and model Michael Stewart died on a lower Manhattan subway platform from a chokehold and beating he received from several police officers. A year later, on October 29, Eleanor Bumpurs, was shot by a police officer in her Bronx apartment as he and other officers tried to evict her. She was shot dead after she attacked the cops with a large kitchen knife. Later that year, on December 22, your boy Bernie Goetz, shot and seriously wounded four black teenagers he thought were going to rob him on a subway in Manhattan.

Howard Beach was well known for being home to many organised crime figures; notably both mob bosses John Gotti and Joe Massino lived there at one time. The Howard Beach incident in December of 1986 propelled the predominantly Italian and Jewish community into the national spotlight, exposing extreme racial tensions in New York City.

Late on the night of Friday, December 19, 1986, four black men, Michael Griffith, 23; Cedric Sandiford, 36; Curtis Sylvester, 20; and Timothy Grimes, were riding in a car when it broke down in a desolate stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard.

Michael, Cedric and Tim walked about three miles north to seek help and wound up in Howard Beach while 20-year-old Curtis Sylvester remained behind to watch the car.

By 12:30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th, the three reached the New Park Pizzeria on Cross Bay Boulevard. After having a few slices, the men left the pizzeria at 12:40 a.m. where they were confronted by a group of about 10 white men who screamed racial slurs at them and told them to "get the fuck out" of their neighbourhood.

New Park Pizza, 15671 Crossbay Boulevard in Howard Beach, Queens

Of the four, Timothy Grimes pulled out a knife on his attackers and managed to elude serious harm, but Cedric Sandiford and Michael Griffith were seriously beaten.

With the mob in hot pursuit, the severely beaten Griffith ran onto the nearby Belt Parkway where he jumped through a small hole in a fence adjacent to the highway. As he staggered across the busy six-lane expressway, he was hit by a car driven by the son of a police officer and killed. His body was found on Shore Parkway at 1:03 a.m.

The mob attacked Sandiford next. Sandiford begged, “God, don’t kill us” before Jon Lester knocked him down with a baseball bat.

Two days later on the 22nd of December, three arrests were made of local teenagers; the accused were Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone.

The incident triggered a wave of racial tension in New York City and gained national attention.

A total of 12 defendants were indicted by a grand jury charged with attempted murder; Billy Bollander, Harry Buonocore, Sal DeSimone, Tommy Farino, Scott Kern, Jason Ladone, Jon Lester, Jimmy Povinelli, Bobby Riley, John Saggese and Mikey Pirone.

After a lengthy trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, the three main defendants were convicted on December 21, 1987, of manslaughter, a little over a year after the death of Michael Griffith.

Kern, Lester and Ladone were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and Michael Pirone, 18, was acquitted. Ultimately 9 people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to the death of Griffith. Thomas Gucciardo was also later acquitted.

Griffith's death was the second in a string of three infamous racially motivated killings of blacks by white mobs in New York City in the 1980's. The other victims were Willie Turks killed in 1982 and Yusuf Hawkins killed in 1989.

On December 21, 1987, the jury found three of the four principal defendants guilty of second degree manslaughter and first degree assault, but innocent on attempted murder and riot charges. Jon Lester was sentenced to 10-30 years in prison.

Ladone received a 5 to 15 years sentence, and Kern was sentenced 6 to 18 years in prison.

The jury acquitted Michael Pirone of all charges. The other participants received lighter sentences, and in most cases, community service.

A similar incident to the 1986 event took place on in June of 2005, when three blacks who admittedly went to Howard Beach to steal a car, were attacked with baseball bats; one of them was injured seriously enough to be hospitalised, and two arrests were made in the case.

The convicted assailant, Nicholas "Fat Nick" Minucci, had claimed that the victims had attempted to rob him. Minucci, 20, who uttered a racial epithet during the baseball bat attack, was found guilty of the racially motivated assault and robbery of Glenn Moore. Minucci was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Well now Howard Beach residents are probably shaking their heads over reports of yet another allegedly racially motivated attack in their neighbourhood. The police say that a group of white teenagers claims they were attacked by a group, who were made up of Hispanics and blacks.

On notorious Cross Bay Boulevard, a the group of white teens noticed the group of black and Hispanic teens; according to the Post, "The apparent leader of the black group walked up to his white counterpart and circled him while staring menacingly." The following events were described by Police Commissioner Kelly:

"When the black or Hispanic young man leaves the area, as he walks away, eggs are thrown at him. Again, last night being Halloween. A few minutes later, a group reported to be anywhere from 30 to 40, mostly black and Hispanic, some of them carrying sticks, arrive back and go into a McDonald's where two of the young men apparently from the initial group were assaulted. One was punched in the face, the other one was hit with what appeared to be a stickball bat."

The mother of a 14-year-old victim told reporters that one of the attackers told her son, "I'm going to kill you white boys. I'm going to kill you white motherfuckers!"

Five people were arrested and charged with gang assault; criminal mischief, and resisting arrest - and they were just 15 and 16 years old. The police are still investigating whether the attack was indeed a hate crime.

I don't about this now; Anytime a black and a white fight its a hate crime? How can you tell? Doesn't all violence stem from some sort of rage or hatred? When do you declare an incident a "hate crime"? How do you know its about race?

It's a touchy subject, I know, but it needs to be addressed. Just because people from different races or backgrounds brawl it out in the street doesn't neccessarily mean its some deep rooted thing. Maybe I'm just playing devils advocate here or being naive, I dunno.

Anytime a white guy hits a black guy I don't think Al Sharpton needs to march and same goes for any time a black guy hits a white guy. Why do we need to impregnate everything with gun powder? Why must we throw bullets into the bonfire? Let's play like it 2007 and the Howard Beach incident was 11 years ago. I'd like to think we've made some progress since then.

The Far Side of the Law: Notorious Queens Landmarks


Anonymous said...

When I think 'Hate Crime' I think of some clear cut Matthew Sheppard or Robert Byrd (the guy who was dragged behind a car for being black not the KKK senator) shit where it is clear cut and repulsive.

15 and 16 year old kids street fighting shouldn't fall under that category. The hate crime law is well meaning but poorly executed and amounts to not much more than the thought crime law.

Anyway, Fuck Joey Fama for the Yusef Hawkins killing. I got gang attacked twice (in retrospect haterimed) for being white and the battle cry was 'Yusef Hawkins.' I like clean Disney NY better.

Fuzion20056 said...

You know its amazing how there is a double standard here in America. In your post when you went through the white on black crime you NEVER ONCE said oh "why should this be called a hate crime" etc. But when the whites got attacked by the blacks you start questioning if it is a hate crime or not. First off they addressed the victims as "white boy" and crackers. If that isn't racist I don't know what is. The point I'm trying to make is just because it is a black on white crime DOESNT mean it can't be a hate crime.

To the poster eddie...street fighting? I mean come on, there were 40-50 hispanics and blacks chacing THREE white kids. They could of seriously been injured. And don't think that there isn't any other black on white hate crimes because there is. But, the liberal media decides to cover those up (that's a fact).

Unknown said...

You want to know the difference between a white people being attacked by blacks and vice versa. The difference is that the majority of blacks do not come frompositions of privlege. Black people are not in a position of racial superiority. 9 times out of 10 if a white person attacks a black person it is due to racial hatred. The reverse, where blacks attack whites usually stem from a defensive position of having to survive through systematic oppression and individual instances of racism. White people who claim reverse racism do not know what the word racism means. To be a racist, one must be part of an apparatus of racial privilege - that includes institutions, judiciary and social advantage - all of which black people do not have the benefit of. The laws surrounding hate crimes are there to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Also, just because you hear someone has been charged with a hate crime doesn't necessarily mean that charge will withstand the full brunt of the legal process. being considered innocent until proven guilty is the one of the privileges of being white.

Anonymous said...

@ Fuzion20056: I don't think GCI did that on purpose. GCI was telling the stories in chronological succession and then asked a rhetorical question at the end of the details. I wouldn't read into it too mcuh.

@ TBlogger2009: Whether or not the majority of blacks come from "positions of privlege" or not is irrelevant. To say its OK for blacks to attack whites because it "stems from a defensive position of having to survive through systematic oppression" is absolute bullshit.

The point is any time two people of a different race argue or fight, it doesn't automatically mean its a hate crime or racially motivated and that's the truth!