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Victim Describes Horror Of Monday Night's Anti-Gay Attack In The East Village

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With a black eye, a bruised forehead and several other injuries, a man described the terrifying experience of being attacked just because he is gay – in the wake of a spate of similar attacks this month.

"It's very sad, but I'm lucky I'm alive, you know," Dan Contarino said.

The attack happened Monday night, as Contarino was walking past a homeless shelter at East 4th Street and Avenue D in the East Village. He said a man approached him, started up a conversation and called him an anti-gay slur.

"And then the next thing I know, I was in the hospital. I have no memory of what exactly happened to me," Contarino said.

The suspect who allegedly attacked Contarino has been identified as Roman Gornell. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Gornell has an extensive arrest history and has been living at the Bowery Mission for the past month.

He is still wanted by the NYPD.

Kelly said Contarino and Gornell both lived at the Bowery Mission, and had known each other about a month. They'd had drinks and pizza in the area earlier that night, and as they were returning, Contarino allegedly told Gornell he was gay, Kelly said.

Gornell at first talked about how he had friends and family who are gay, but then allegedly snapped and attacked him.

Gornell Roman
Gornell Roman has been charged with assault as a hate crime. (credit: NYPD)

The attack on Contarino was one of two on gay New Yorkers within a period of 24 hours.

The second incident happened around 5:20 a.m. Tuesday in SoHo. Police said a couple, ages 41 and 42, were walking on Broadway near Prince Street when two men began yelling anti-gay slurs.

A physical altercation ensued and one of the victims suffered an eye injury, police said.

In that incident. Fabian Ortiz, 32, and Pedro Jiminez, 23, were arrested and later charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime, police said.

Both attacks came just hours after thousands of people marched against the killing of Mark Carson, an openly gay man, in Greenwich Village.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared "it's not a good day for New York," during a Tuesday afternoon press conference with Kelly on the recent anti-gay attacks.

"No person, regardless of what they look like or who they love should ever walk down the street in fear," the mayor said.

Bloomberg, Kelly Take Aim At Anti-Gay Violence After More Attacks

The mayor added, "New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance and we are a place that celebrates diversity, a place where people from around the world come to live free of prejudice and persecution and hate crimes like these are an offense against all we stand for as a city."

Bloomberg, Kelly Take Aim At Anti-Gay Violence After More Attacks

"Words cannot express our shock and outrage over this latest apparent incident of hate violence directed at the LGBT community," Sens. Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron added in a joint statement. "We are grateful to the NYPD for swiftly apprehending two suspects, who we are confident will be subject to the full weight of the criminal justice system."

Carson was killed Saturday at Sixth Avenue and West 8th Street.

Police said Elliot Morales, 33, followed and taunted Carson as he walked down the street with a companion before shooting him in the face. Morales was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon.

"These types of crimes are outrageous and we're going to do everything in our power to see to it that they certainly don't occur but if they do occur, we're going to very aggressively investigate them and bring people to justice," Kelly said on Tuesday.

"We have no tolerance for intolerance and we're just not going to spare any resources," Bloomberg added.

As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, Kelly added overall hate crimes are down in the city this year but hate crimes targeting the gay community are up 70 percent.

Gay rights advocates, city lawmakers and others joined the Monday night march to denounce the rise in hate crimes report.

"We're not going to go back to the times when Greenwich Village had to have escorts that led people from bars to subways so they could get there in safety," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "And towards that end, we are responding to this increase in anti-LGBT hate crime."

"This sort of hate and violence has no place here in New York City, or anywhere," Hoylman and Squadron said. "As we head into Pride Month, the LGBT community must stay vigilant, and all New Yorkers must speak out forcefully against bias attacks of any kind to make certain that these kinds of crimes get the attention and universal condemnation they deserve."

Authorities said there have been a spate of anti-gay attacks this month.

Two of those attacks occurred in Midtown. Another took place in Union Square and another happened on Christopher Street, not far from the scene where Carson was killed.

On May 5, Nick Porto and his partner Kevin Atkins were beaten near Madison Square Garden after a group of men yelled anti-gay slurs, police said.

On May 7, a man was assaulted by someone hurling anti-gay slurs in Union Square, according to the Anti-Violence Project.

On May 8, a man was attacked by two people shouting anti-gay slurs as he left Pieces, a gay bar on Christopher Street, according to the Anti-Violence Project.

Then on May 10, two men tried to get into an after-hours billiards hall on West 32nd Street but were not let in, police said. They were then approached by a group of approximately five others who proceeded to shout anti-gay slurs and beat the men, police said.

On Monday, a 45-year-old man was allegedly attacked at East 4th Street and Avenue D by at least one other man who allegedly yelled an epithet. No arrests have been made in that incident.

So far this year, police said there has been a rise in bias-related crimes overall, to 22 from 13 during the same period last year.

Quinn said in response to the recent attacks, there will be increased police presence throughout the entire Lower West Side throughout the month of June, which is LGBT Pride Month.

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