A photo released by the NYPD of the suspect it identified as Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin.
The NYPD has announced the arrest of a suspect sought in assaults on two gay men at the Dallas BBQ in Chelsea on May 5.
Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin, 41, who lives at 598 East 139th Street in the Bronx, turned himself in at the 7th precinct on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on the morning of June 16. He was charged with two counts of felony assault and two counts of attempted felony assault.
Editor's update: To read about the criminal complaint against Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin, who has now been arraigned, and comments his attorney made to Gay City News, go here.
El-Amin is charged in assaults –– captured on video by a Dallas BBQ customer –– that occurred shortly after 11 p.m. on May 5. In the video clip, which ran about one minute, a large bald and bearded man who appeared to be a light-skinned African-American was kicking Jonathan Snipes, 32, on two occasions as others in the restaurant pulled the two men apart. After the second confrontation, Ethan York-Adams, 25, whom Snipes identified as his boyfriend, steered Snipes away from his attacker. At that point, the attacker broke free from those restraining him, picked up a chair, and bashed both Snipes and York-Adams over the head, with York-Adams appearing to take the worst of it, falling to the ground. Snipes sat down, apparently dazed by the attack.
The day after the incident, Snipes told DNAinfo.com that after he accidentally spilled a drink, “A table near us audibly started making pretty gross comments about the two of us like, ‘White faggots, spilling drinks.’”
Snipes told the news website that despite the fact that he weighs only 140 pounds and that one of the men making the remarks looked to be six-foot four, he confronted them over the slurs. One of the men stood up, and the incident quickly escalated.
Hours after Gay City News, on the evening of May 6, first published a story online about the incident, Isaam Sharef, who had posted the video of the confrontation, responded to the newspaper’s queries from earlier in the day by writing, “Snipes didn’t go to the table to confront him. He went over and punched the guy in the face. Then the guy got up and attacked him.”
Sharef did not respond to a follow-up question as to whether he had witnessed anything prior to Snipes’ punch. Neither Snipes nor York-Adams responded to messages left for them about the incident.
However, Snipes’ mother, Trish Snipes, who spoke to Gay City News from her home in Alabama, said her son told her that a waitress at Dallas BBQ, whom she described as having a ponytail, urged the attacker to “hurry up and leave before the police arrive.” The man in the video is seen leaving the restaurant immediately after smashing the chair over Snipes and York-Adams’ heads.
Eric Levine, whom the restaurant identified as its spokesperson for the incident, did not return an email seeking comment on the attack and the allegation an employee may have helped the attacker elude capture.
Since the May 5 melee, the New York City Anti-Violence Project and two out gay elected officials who represent Chelsea –– Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Corey Johnson –– have said the NYPD was investigating it as a possible hate crime. The NYPD did not respond to several queries on whether the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force was in fact involved, and the charges do not, at this point, include hate crime enhancements.
Following El-Amin's arrest, Hoylman told Gay City News, “I've confirmed with NYPD that this incident is still being investigated as a hate crime.” Another source who was briefed on the police thinking about a hate crime charge told Gay City News that the NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney's office have not come to a consensus on whether a hate crime prosecution can be successfully mounted.
The day after the attack, photographs of Snipes were published that showed bruising on the right side of his head and face and a long cut running down from his ear. Trish Snipes told Gay City News that her greatest concern was whether her son would lose some of his front teeth, which she said were loosened as he was kicked by his assailant. Both Snipes and York-Adams declined medical treatment when an ambulance arrived on the scene.
On May 19, El-Amin was first named as the suspect in the case and identified as the man seen in the restaurant's surveillance video about 45 minutes before the assault, and at that time multiple media reports cited NYPD sources as saying he had a total of 18 previous arrests –– on charges including assault, shoplifting, drug possession, credit-card fraud, forgery, and possession of stolen property –– in New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan, as well as New York.
The New York Daily News quoted NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce saying police suspected that El-Amin had fled the state.
Several online sites have asserted that a Facebook page they say is El-Amin’s indicated that the suspect is himself gay, but Gay City News has been unable to confirm that independently.
El-Amin has not yet been arraigned.