Kevin Atkins and Nick Porto following their assault on May 5. | FACEBOOK
Port Authority police made two arrests in a May 10 assault on a gay couple outside a PATH station entrance at 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.
The attack came five days after two other gay men, Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, were pushed to the ground and punched in the face just a block away, allegedly by a group of men wearing Knicks jerseys. That attack came shortly after the team lost to the Indiana Pacers at nearby Madison Square Garden.
Person of interest wearing Knicks jersey sought in first attack
In the May 10 assaults, Asllan Berisha and Brian Ramirez, both 21 and from Manhattan, who were with a group of three other men, were arrested at the scene on charges of misdemeanor assault and harassment, according to the Daily News. The Port Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the assaults were being investigated as hate crimes. Berisha was released on $1,500 bail but it is not known if Ramirez has yet posted bail.
The victims, whom Port Authority police did not identify beyond their ages –– 27 and 37 –– were taken to Bellevue Hospital, where one of them required surgery on his eye. A source told the Daily News that one of the victims said the assailants “came after us and fought us because we’re homosexual.”
In the May 5 case, Porto and Atkins were walking arm in arm on Eighth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street when they were attacked by an undetermined number of men. Surveillance video that surfaced several days after the assault shows a group of eight, several garbed in Knicks jerseys, walking together shortly before the incident.
A person of interest in the May 5 assault on Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins. | NYPD
Police have circulated a photo of one of the men, whom they have identified as a person of interest in the investigation. The NYPD describes the man as Hispanic and in his 20s, approximately six foot, with brown hair and a tattoo on his left forearm. The man was wearing a white Knicks jersey with the number 7 on it, a cap, blue jeans, and white sneakers.
Three other Hispanic men in their 20s are also being sought.
Porto posted a photo to Facebook of himself and Atkins, which shows dried blood under his nose and Atkins’ wrist and lower forearm covered by a cast.
“A group of men wearing Knicks jerseys just got out of the game at Madison Square Garden,” he wrote. “We were verbally accosted by two of them… It was then that I realized we were surrounded. They broke my nose and his wrist… they called us fags and told us to not bother fighting.” Both Porto and Atkins were treated at Bellevue. The bag the couple was carrying was also damaged, destroying an iPad and cell phone.
According to DNAinfo, Porto expressed regret that his effort to resist the assailants when they were verbally harassing him and Atkins led to Atkins being assaulted. “It’s my fault –– I spoke back to them — that Kevin was hit,” he said. “He didn't deserve it whatsoever. I was that idiot that should have just walked away.”
In his Facebook posting –– made prior to the police release of the footage –– Porto voiced doubts about whether the assailants would be apprehended.
“This event happened just outside [McDonalds] where they were caught on tape and several by-standers had their cameras out taking video,” he wrote. “Despite this, police have informed us that they couldn't promise anything as there were a ton of fans in the city at that moment.”
Porto raised a larger question of concern for many LGBT New Yorkers.
“This happened in Midtown, during the day, with a ton of people around, just across the street from the New Yorker,” he wrote. “When are we safe?”
Anyone with information regarding the attack on Porto and Atkins is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at NYPDCrimeStoppers.com or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.