By Joe Anuta
The Queens District Attorney upgraded charges against six teenagers Thursday to include murder as a hate crime after they mistakenly thought an 18-year-old boy was gay and beat him to death earlier this year.
Outside of a March 13 Woodhaven house party, the six boys allegedly used a pipe, cane and stick to bludgeon Anthony Collao so severely he died days later in a hospital. The suspects then allegedly stole the shoes off of Collao, and one was seen wearing the Bethpage teen’s Atlanta Braves baseball cap immediately following the incident, the DA said. Another bragged about it on Facebook, according to city officials.
“As a result of an ongoing investigation by my office’s Hate Crimes Bureau and the New York City Police Department, the charges involving these defendants have been upgraded to reflect additional evidence from eyewitnesses,” DA Richard Brown said. “The defendants are now charged with having been motivated by hate in committing this brutal and unprovoked attack and robbery.”
The accused are: Nolis Ogando, 18, of 777 Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood; Alex Velez of 90-17 Jamaica Ave., Christopher Lozada of 452 Onderdonk Ave. and Calvin Pietriof 91-10 77th St., all 17 from Woodhaven; Luis Tabales, 16, of 90-17 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill; and Jonathan Echevarria, 16, of 1050 Greene Ave. in Brooklyn.
Each were charged in a 21-count indictment that also included manslaughter, assault and robbery as hate crimes.
If convicted, the teenagers face a minimum of 20 years to life in prison.
On the evening of the incident, Collao and his girlfriend were attending a house party at 87-19 90th St. in Woodhaven. When the six alleged attackers approached the party at around 12:50 p.m. and refused to pay the $7 cover charge, they began to spew anti-gay slurs at partygoers, many of whom were gay, police said.
The six boys then allegedly chased down and beat Collao before fleeing the scene, the DA said.
“Hate crimes — whether they be motivated by sexual orientation, gender, religion or ethnicity — will not be tolerated in Queens County, which is proudly known as one of the most diverse areas in the country,” Brown said in a statement. “When they do, regrettably, occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible will be brought to justice to answer for their actions.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.