The NYPD arrested the man who marched onto a gay couple’s property in Staten Island last month and spewed anti-LGBTQ slurs, kicked their door, and issued direct threats.
Clifford Hammel, 43, was taken into custody at 8:45 a.m. on February 3 and charged with harassment in the first degree and criminal trespass, according to authorities. No hate crime-related charges have been issued, though Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said on February 2 that his office was still probing the case. His office did not immediately return a request for comment following the arrest.
Hammel’s arrest came just days after Gay City News published an exclusive story detailing the horrific scene that unfolded at Willow Road after midnight on January 24. Late in the evening on January 23, couple Joe Canale and Raymond Gamarra said they asked neighbors to keep it down because their party was too loud. That simple request outraged Hammel, who went on to make several trips over to Canale and Gamarra’s home, according to the couple.
The scene escalated after midnight when Hammel walked over to the couple’s home and unleashed a barrage of blatant homophobia.
“I see you, fucking faggot,” Hammel said in the video obtained by Gay City News. “You little bitch. Fuck you. You fucking faggot.”
Hammel continued voicing slurs before he went on to threaten the couple at their workplaces and at their gym, saying that he would “get you wherever you go.” He also kicked the couple’s door in the middle of his early-morning rampage — which was all caught on camera. An unidentified man accompanied Hammel throughout the incident.
The moment when a man harassed a gay couple with anti-LGBTQ slurs, threatened them, and kicked the door of their home in Staten Island. pic.twitter.com/S58jKx0ooX
— Gay City News (@GayCityNews) January 29, 2021
“We’re happy that he’s being held accountable for his actions,” Gamarra told Gay City News. “We’re sad it had to come to this unfortunate event, but honestly, the story doesn’t end here.”
Gamarra and Canale initially expressed frustration in response to what they felt was a casual response to the case by law enforcement. Police officers who flocked to the scene seemed to brush off their side of the story, Canale explained, and those issues only intensified in the following days when Canale said police appeared to mix up Hammel’s name in their reports.
When Canale talked to the NYPD one day before Gay City News published a story about the case, he said he was told that “nothing can be done.” Following Gay City News’ reporting, however, the couple said they received an outpouring of support from the community — and they feel that the publicity helped push the police into action.
“People we don’t even know have been reaching out,” Gamarra said.
Gamarra and Canale are planning on voicing their support for improved LGBTQ protections and police training so law enforcement officers are better equipped to respond to cases like their own.
“As [Canale] said, the police were not showing compassion,” Gamarra said. “We’re looking to advocate for and to change the laws and training that police go through.”
Canale echoed Gamarra’s points and expressed his desire to see lawmakers step up with bolder laws that would do more to assist victims of hate.
“I think the legislature and the governor need to show some leadership here, offer some greater level of protection, and put some greater teeth in the law and statute, especially when it comes to those groups that are so frequently targeted… the LGBTQ community has been historically targeted by the police” Canale said.
Meanwhile, the couple said they are pleased with the district attorney’s approach to the case.
“We’ve felt supported and we feel that the party is being held accountable,” Gamarra said. “It is possible that there will be additional charges, but we don’t know yet.”
Canale also said he received a phone call from the 121st Precinct, which first responded to the case, and they apologized for the way he and his partner were treated.
Folks near and far have expressed their collective disgust in response to the attack. Carol Bullock, the executive director of the Staten Island Pride Center, told Gay City News that the incident “has shaken Staten Island’s LGBTQ and allied community.”
“The Pride Center of Staten Island is deeply disturbed by this incident,” Bullock said in a written statement. “This hateful behavior is unacceptable and has no place on Staten Island… The Pride Center stands firmly against any form of hate, discrimination and racism. If you need someone to talk to, the Pride Center of Staten Island is here for you. Free counseling is available. For more information, contact Tommy Susinno, counseling services manager, at 718.808.1361, or visit the Pride Center of Staten Island’s website. The Pride Center envisions a Staten Island where LGBTQ people and families, and all Staten Islanders, are valued and feel a sense of belonging. This incident does not deter the Pride Center from working to realize this vision, but rather fuels us to continue.”
The couple thanked those who have stepped up in recent days to denounce the attack.
“It makes me very happy to know that people on social media have been largely supportive,” Canale said. “It hasn’t been complete, but for the most part, including from Staten Island’s community, the Hate Crimes Task Force, the Staten Island Pride Center, Elvis Duran, (who hosts the national show dubbed the “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show”)
Canale added, “It all started with Gay City News.”
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