Metro Weekly

Suspect arrested for allegedly burning rainbow flag outside of New York gay bar

Police credit public for helping them catch and arrest the alleged suspect

Photo: Alexi Minko via AP.

New York City Police say they’ve apprehended a suspect who allegedly set fire to a rainbow flag outside of the Alibi Lounge, a Harlem gay bar.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said officers made the arrest thanks to tips from the community.

“Your calls to @NYPDTips and the efforts of our @NYPDHateCrimes detectives have led to the identification and apprehension of the individual who burned the pride flag,” Shea tweeted on Tuesday evening, along with an image of the suspect at the scene of the crime. He did not release any details about the suspect.

The arrest came a day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he asked state authorities to open a hate crime investigation over the incident, reports ABC News.

The NYPD had been investigating the burning as a hate crime prior to the governor’s announcement.

“This act of hate is repugnant to our values of equality and inclusion, and we will not stand by and allow these cowardly acts to continue in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In New York we have zero tolerance for this despicable behavior.”

Alibi Lounge was previously targeted on May 31, when an unknown suspect was caught by surveillance cameras setting fire to two of the bar’ rainbow flags. The bar replaced the flags, only to have one of the replacements set alight during the early morning hours of July 8.

Police tweeted a grainy photo of a man they identified as a suspect on Monday evening and asked the community’s help in identifying him.

“About a month ago we had the first incident, we did put out some video that was recovered but honestly the video was far away. We believe there’s a good chance the individual resides somewhere in that community,” Shea told reporters on Monday. “We are out there canvassing as we speak and we are relying on the community here as well anyone with any info.”

The owners of Alibi Lounge tweeted their thanks to the NYPD for helping catch the suspect.

The arrest came a day after the NYPD announced that even though overall crime has been decreasing, the number of reported hate crimes has risen to 220, marking a 48% increase over the past year.

The department previously reported that, as of June 2 — when only 184 total hate crimes had been reported — the number of crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation had increased by 20% over the past year.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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