Police say a teenager attending a party in Woodhaven was beaten to death by five attackers who believed he was gay. The suspected thugs who killed Anthony Collao, 18, are accused of invading a home where they shouted anti-gay slurs. When Collao attempted to run, they chased him down and kicked and beat him to death, authorities say.
According to the police, the last of the group to be arrested bragged about the attack on Facebook. Eyewitnesses gave the police an accurate description of each attacker, who faces charges of manslaughter and gang assault as a hate crime. According to a published report, the attackers began to spew the anti-gay insults when they were denied access to the party because they would not pay the $7 cover charge.
If convicted, the five young men, including two 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds, will spend the better part of their lives behind bars. But we fear this punishment will do little to prevent the next assault on an innocent victim because his attackers believe he or she is homosexual. The threat of spending long years in prison did not stop the accused Woodhaven five from busting up a party.
“The tragic attack in Woodhaven, which has resulted in the death of a young man, is another reminder that homophobia is a real and present danger in our society,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is gay. “Verbally and physically attacking people based on their sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation is a crime against all people and we must fight to end this cycle of hate once and for all.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich added, “Our streets will not be safe until the individuals who are responsible for this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
But ending the hate-crime violence is easier said than done. Punishment alone does not appear to be a sufficient deterrent. Whether the hatred is anti-gay, anti-Mexican or anti-Jewish, it is difficult to address. When the trials in this case are done, we would hope investigators will have the opportunity to carefully interview the alleged attackers with the hope of better understanding the roots of their hatred and intolerance. Perhaps then the city can begin to keep the next hate crime from occurring.