A brutal May 5 attack on two gay men at the Dallas BBQ on Eighth Avenue just above 23rd Street –– which included one of them being kicked in the face while he lay prone on the ground and moments later both having a chair bashed over their heads –– was captured on video by a customer on the scene.
Though the NYPD would only confirm that two assault complaints had been filed and an investigation was ongoing, Sharon Stapel, the executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told Gay City News the incident, which occurred around 11 p.m. on a night when the city was celebrating Cinco de Mayo, was being investigated as bias-related by the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
Jonathan Snipes, 32, and his boyfriend Ethan York-Adams, identified in press reports as 25, were leaving the restaurant when Snipes accidentally knocked over a drink. DNAinfo.com quoted Snipes as saying, “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.
A video shot by another customer, Isaam Sharef, who posted it to his YouTube page, captured the chaotic scene that ensued.
Hours after Gay City News first posted this story early in the evening on May 6, Sharef 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 immediately respond to a follow-up question as to whether he had witnessed anything prior to that punch.
A large bald and bearded man appeared to be kicking Snipes on two separate occasions while the victim was on the ground. Others in the restaurant broke up the melee on several occasions, with people holding the attacker back and York-Adams trying to steer Snipes away. Screams and cries of “stop, stop” from the crowd can be heard throughout the video.
Almost a minute into the confrontation, 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 can be seen sitting down, apparently dazed by the attack.
The Daily News reported that York-Adams “appeared” to have been unconscious on the ground for several minutes until an ambulance arrived.
A DNAinfo.com photograph of Snipes after the attack shows bruising on the right side of his head and face and a long cut running down from his ear. Snipes’ mother, Trish Snipes, who spoke to Gay City News from her home in Alabama, said 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.
After an ambulance arrived, the two men declined to go to the emergency room, Snipes’ mother explaining her son worried he could not afford to pay for treatment there, which would have largely involved monitoring for any concussion.
She also 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 video appears to show the attacker running around a wall of windows and then exiting the restaurant immediately after he smashed the chair over York-Adams and Snipes' heads.
Trish Snipes said her son described his assailant as an African-American, but that is not clear from the video, nor has the NYPD released a description of any suspect. Both Snipes and York-Adams are white.
Eric Levine, whom the restaurant identified as its spokesperson for the incident, did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the attack and the allegation an employee may have helped the attacker elude capture.
Neither Snipes nor York-Adams immediately returned Facebook messages and a phone call seeking comment.
Out gay City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents much of Manhattan’s Lower West Side, said, in a written statement, “I am appalled and angered by the senseless act of anti-LGBT hate violence that was perpetrated last night at a restaurant in my district. The fact that this attack took place in the neighborhood of Chelsea, a place known around the world for its acceptance of all people, is particularly outrageous. There must be zero tolerance of hate crimes, the most insidious of crimes as they target entire communities of people. I urge the perpetrators of this act to turn themselves in immediately.”
Anyone with information about the Dallas BBQ attack can call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers at 646-610-6806 or the AVP’s 24-hour hotline at 212-714-1141.