Five Hasidic men were arrested Wednesday for the December beating of a black gay man in Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s oldest Jewish neighborhoods. Police believe the man’s sexuality is what provoked the attack, and are now investigating the assault as a hate crime.
According to reports, 22-year-old fashion student Taj Patterson was walking along Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg after a night of partying last December when he was assaulted by a group of up to 20 ultra-Orthodox Hasidic men shouting antigay slurs.
Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, Pinchas Braver, 19, and Joseph Fried, 25, claimed to be part of a vigilante patrol group monitoring the area after a series of vandalizations occurred. There’s no evidence to support that Patterson had vandalized anything that night or previously, though a police report notes he was “highly intoxicated, uncooperative and incoherent.” Police suspect he was attacked simply for being gay and black.
The men, now all charged with gang assault, allegedly yelled things like “stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down” and cheered as the main instigator kicked Patterson’s face. According to reports, the unprovoked attack left Patterson with a broken eye socket, a torn retina, blood clotting, and cuts and bruises to his knee and ankles.
Patterson remembers that his assailants “came up behind me, they grabbed me, they punched me in the face, kicked me down, knocked me out.” The assault was stopped by an MTA bus driver who intervened while on duty.
Gothamist reports that two of the suspects now in custody were plucked from Israel, where they fled following the attack, and that “more arrests are likely.” If convicted, each assailant could face up to 25 years in prison.