A New Jersey grand jury has indicted a Baltimore teenager who stands accused of nearly beating to death a man whom he believed was gay.
José Tobias Carranza Serrano, 18, also known as Kevin Lopez, was indicted last week on charges of first-degree attempted murder and bias intimidation — a hate crime charge — for allegedly beating and choking a 37-year-old learning disabled man in James J. Braddock North Hudson Park in North Bergen, New Jersey, on June 21.
Carranza Serrano was also indicted on charges of first-degree robbery and second-degree aggravated assault in the incident, which left the victim hospitalized and in a medically-induced coma at the time. The victim has since recovered from his injuries.
According to prosecutors, Carranza Serrano did not know the victim prior to the incident. After luring the man into a wooded area of the park Carranza Serrano allegedly punched and kicked the victim in the face, causing multiple fractures and knocking out several teeth. He also allegedly attempted to strangle the victim and gouge his eyes out.
After attacking the victim, Carranza Serrano allegedly stole a Samsung smart phone and $8 in cash from the victim.
The victim’s family members told The Jersey Journal that the 37-year-old man regularly took daily walks in the park in the evening, but that they became concerned after he did not return. Police claim Carranza Serrano attacked the victim after 11 p.m., near the south end of the lake in North Hudson Park. Due to his intellectual disability, the victim may also not have been able to read social cues, which may have led Carranza Serrano to allegedly target him based on the mistaken belief that he was gay and possibly cruising for sex.
Carranza Serrano was arrested and charged less than two days after the attack, following an investigation by the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, and DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau-Bias Crimes Unit, assisted by police departments in North Bergen, Hoboken and Bayonne. He was ultimately arrested in Bayonne after being detained on a trespassing charge.
If found guilty of the charges against him, Carranza Serrano could face anywhere from 15 to 30 years in state prison for the bias intimidation charge, and from 10 to 20 years in state prison for the attempted murder charge, and would not be eligible for parole until serving 85% of his sentence on that particular charge, according to the office of New Jersey Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck. The second-degree charge of aggravated assault could carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.
“We will not tolerate violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community,” Bruck said in a statement. “There is simply no excuse for this type of hate, and we will ensure that those who engage in violence are held fully accountable for their actions.”
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