Two racial melees in Howard Beach

Residents of Howard Beach received a dose of fear this Halloween - and not the playful kind the holiday is known for.
Instead of egg fights, local teens found themselves in a very real skirmish that landed one victim in the hospital.
According to witnesses, shortly before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, October 31, 30 to 40 teenage and young-adult males chased local teens Shawn Carmatta, Joseph Friedman, Frederick Coemenza and Angelo Gurino from 159th Avenue to a McDonald’s located between 159th and 160th Avenues on Cross Bay Boulevard.
The mob entered the McDonald’s, where Carmatta was allegedly struck in the back of the neck with a hard object. One pursuer struck Friedman on the head with a broom handle, sending him to the hospital. Seven stitches were required to seal the wound.
Around the same time, an additional group of Howard Beach teens was involved in a similar incident, in the vicinity of Ragtime Newsstand, 157-52 Cross Bay Boulevard. The teens were playing handball when confronted by a group of slightly older males presumably connected to the first group.
Chris, a teen involved in the Ragtime incident who did not offer his last name, said the confronters called him “white boy” before walking away. They then returned a few minutes later and began punching and attempting to rob the teens.
Chris said he was punched in the head, but not hospitalized.
Officers from the NYPD’s 106th Precinct responded to the scene. According to a statement from Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, four teenagers and one man, all Brooklyn residents, were arraigned on second-degree assault charges, second-degree menacing charges, and a charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Defendants Patrick Pugh, 18, Terrance Scott, 18, Talique Jackson, 16, Victor Tossas, 16, and George Morales, 25, are ordered to return to court Friday, November 16. Bail was set at $10,000 for Pugh and $15,000 each for Morales and Tossas. Scott and Jackson were released on their own recognizance.
Many in Howard Beach are calling for investigators to declare the Halloween night attacks a hate crime. On Saturday, November 3, residents held a rally calling for a hate crime declaration. One witness said a “Free Fat Nick” chant also began during the event.
Nina De Blasio, of the Howard Beach Civic Forum, agrees that the crime should be classified as a hate crime, but not because it took place between races.
“When you’re coming at someone with a bat, that’s a hate crime,” said De Blasio. “I don’t care if it’s black-on-white or white-on-white - if you’re coming at someone with a bat, it’s not to say ‘I love you.’”
But the Howard Beach community is “not always in the wrong,” said De Blasio.
“We deserve respect,” she said. “We just want the facts to come out in this case, and do justice to our neighborhood.”
Ultimately, though, the problem is not about race, said De Blasio. It is about safety.
“Anyone raising kids in this area has a real reason to be concerned,” she said.

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