Cops arrest fifth teenager

A small memorial for Anthony Collao (inset) sits on the corner of 90th Street and 88th Avenue in Woodhaven near where the Long Island teenager was brutally beaten and then later died. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

A fifth suspect was arrested last week when a group of youths allegedly yelled anti-gay slurs before beating a Long Island teen in Woodhaven so badly he later died of the injuries, police said, .

Calvin Pietri, 17, of 91-10 77th St., was charged March 15 with manslaughter and gang assault as a hate crime stemming from an incident that occurred outside a Woodhaven party, police said. Where five suspects allegedly crashed a birthday party at 88-17 90th St. and forced their way in, police said.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office, Pietri and four other suspects chased down 18-year-old Anthony Collao and beat him with what one witness described as a stick.

A metal pipe was found near his body and he died days later at Jamaica Hospital as a result of the injuries.

Police said the group — which included 17-year-olds Nolis Ogando and Christopher Lozada of Ridgewood and 16-year-olds Luis Tabales and Alex Velex of Richmond Hill — allegedly yelled anti-gay slurs at some point in the evening before they chased Collao down and punched, kicked and beat him with the object.

In the aftermath of the attack, several memorials had been set up on the social networking website Facebook, but as if to affirm the adolescent nature of the crime — the defendants are barely old enough to be prosecuted as adults — the page was vandalized by a barrage of posts that maligned and ridiculed the deceased.

Many of the posts were removed soon after their appearance, often under the name of Andy Drewson, and were roundly condemned by friends and family.

In addition to roaming cyberspace, many residents of the quiet Woodhaven street said groups of teenagers hang out in nearby Forest Park and sometimes deal drugs in the neighborhood.

“In the last 5 1/2 years, it has gotten worse,” said a resident named Robert, who did not want to give his last name but claimed to have seen gang activity in the area. “I have kids to worry about. Some are grown, but my last one is only 2 years old.”

Another resident said she was shocked by the violence. While Samantha Lucena acknowledged that young people hang out in the park, she said it did not appear they were doing anything illegal.

“Young kids hang around in the park, but not gangs,” she said. “The kids are hanging out with friends. I wouldn’t think that they would do something like this.”

Friends of Collao set up a small memorial on the corner of 90th Street and 88th Avenue in the days following the incident.

“He wasn’t a bad kid,” said Jessica Demino, who had planned to meet Collao on the night of the attack and stood in tears in front of the memorial. “He was an awesome kid who always had a smile on his face. He cared about family and friends.”

Collao is from Long Island, but his girlfriend lives in Woodhaven, which is why he was at a party so far from home, according to Demino.

Each of the suspects was charged with gang assault in the first degree, according to the DA.

Police could not confirm reports that Pietri bragged about the assault on the social networking site Facebook, which led to his arrest.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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