UPDATE: NYC Police Arrest 9th Suspect in Anti-Gay Beatings

By: COLLEEN LONG (The Associated Press)
By: COLLEEN LONG (The Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The men suspected in anti-gay attacks in the Bronx lived alongside one of the victims for years but turned violent when they thought he had a sexual encounter with one of their recruits, authorities said.

The suspects were members of a street crew known as the Latin King Goonies, a loosely organized gang that mostly partied together, and all four victims knew their suspected attackers, police said. Eight of the men were arraigned Sunday on hate- crime charges including assault, sexual abuse and harassment but did not enter pleas. Two attorneys represented them at the hearing but didn't expect to represent all of them through the legal process. Their families have said they are innocent.

The ninth suspect, Ruddy Vargas-Perez, was arrested Monday and was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in a Bronx court. He was taken into custody after his attorney had told authorities he would be surrendering to police on Tuesday. He had failed previously to show up as promised.

"He's innocent of all the charges," said his aunt, Nancy Perez, who spoke in Spanish when reached by phone on Monday night. "He was raised in a loving family."

She denied he was a member of a gang and said her nephew works in construction.

The beatings in the Bronx, and the recent string of anti-gay attacks and teen suicides elsewhere attributed to homophobic bullying, have drawn outraged responses from city and state leaders and gay advocates.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the attacks "completely unacceptable" in prepared remarks before a Monday night dinner for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
He added: "As I said over the weekend, the perpetrators of the abuse and torture in the Bronx will be spared no mercy," he said.

Three of the gang members saw their 17-year-old recruit coming out of an apartment occupied by a 30-year-old man known throughout the neighborhood as "La Reina," which is Spanish for "the queen." It was known in the neighborhood that the man was gay, and the three wanted to know why the teen was at his apartment, authorities said.

They took the teen to a nearby abandoned apartment they used as a hangout at about 3:30 a.m. Oct. 3 and beat him until he confessed he had a sexual encounter with the man, police said.

"You crazy, you lost your mind," one suspect, Nelson Falu said, as he sliced the teen with a box cutter, prosecutors said. David Rivera hit him in the head with a shaving can and ringleader Idelfonzo Mendez shoved the wooden handle of a plunger into the teen's rectum, prosecutors said. "Do you like this?" he asked, according to the criminal complaint.

Through their interrogation, they discovered another 17-year-old they knew also had an encounter with the man, police said. When he came to the apartment around 8:30 the next evening, they pounced, attacking him as well, officials said.

While the other teen was there, Mendez invited the 30-year-old over, claiming there was a party and asking him to bring alcohol, authorities said. The man met up with Mendez at the corner bodega and he walked with him, unsuspecting, into the apartment where he'd be tortured for hours by all nine suspects, who forced the malt liquor down his throat, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Rivera tied the man to a chair with a metal chain and blindfolded him.

From there, he was beaten and sodomized with a small baseball bat, according to the criminal complaint.

During the attack, they took the man's keys and went to his home, where they beat up and bound his older brother and stole $1,000 in cash and a TV from their apartment, prosecutors said.

The attacks, while vicious, aren't surprising in the world of outlaw machismo, where being gay is a powerful taboo and broken rules can have violent consequences, experts on gang culture said. Experts said it's likely the 30-year-old would never have been attacked if he hadn't been in contact with their recruit.

"A lot of these gang subcultures are pretty homophobic," said David C. Brotherton, a youth gang expert and chairman of the sociology department at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "And some of them, they definitely have, the proper gangs have rules that don't permit anybody in the group to be gay."

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Associated Press writers Sara Kugler Frazier and Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.


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