By Chris Boyette CNN
(CNN) – Police are investigating the slaying of a 32-year-old man in the Greenwich Village neighborhood early Saturday as a hate crime because the gunman made multiple anti-gay comments, they said.
It is the third violent attack in two weeks believed to be motivated by anti-gay bias, police said.
The suspect’s anti-gay remarks were noted before the shooting took place, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The man was seen urinating on the street outside a bar before going inside and making anti-gay comments to the bartender and brandishing a silver handgun.
A little after midnight, the gunman and two other companions confronted the victim, Marc Carson, and another man he was with on the street. The suspect reportedly made anti-gay remarks and asked them whether they were “gay wrestlers,” Kelly said.
Carson and the other man turned toward the taunts, but backed down and kept walking away. They didn’t know it, Kelly said, but the suspect followed them.
The gunman confronted the two men again, before shooting Carson in the face, police said.
Carson was pronounced dead on arrival at Beth Israel Hospital.
Around 4 a.m., a police officer, responding to a radio alert of the shooting, came across the alleged gunman and apprehended him. The suspect turned over a silver Taurus .38-caliber six-shot revolver, according to police.
Police later identified the suspect as Elliot Morales, 33. Police said the suspect had forged identification and they used facial recognition technology to determine his true identity.
Morales faces a charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime, authorities said.
The identities of the suspect’s two companions — at least one of whom Kelly said left the suspect before the shooting — are still not known.
Kelly said that the killing appeared to be “a hate crime, a bias crime.” There were no words that would aggravate the situation, and the victim did not know the perpetrator, he said.
According to Kelly, there have been 22 bias-motivated events this year. That’s up “significantly” from 13 this time last year.
On May 10, five men brutally beat two gay men near Madison Square Garden after the couple was denied entry into an after-hours billiards bar, according to Port Authority Police. The victims suffered severe facial injuries. Police were able to arrest two of the five men; the rest fled the scene.
There was another attack on gay men on May 5, outside of Madison Square Garden following a New York Knicks game. One of the victims told CNN affiliate WCBS he believes the attack wasn’t an isolated incident.
“There is no words to describe the pain, ’cause this was not an attack on us, this was an attack on all of us,” he said.
Kelly said authorities do not believe the acts are connected, but the investigations are ongoing.
“It’s not a pattern,” he said, “but something that concerns us.”
By Chris Boyette CNN