The New York Police Department has identified the suspect sought in connection with an assault on two gay men at the Dallas BBQ in Chelsea on May 5.
According to multiple media reports, the man named by the NYPD is Bayna El-Amin, 41, who was previously arrested a total of 18 times –– 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.
According to the New York Daily News, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said El-Amin is suspected of having fled the state.
The department’s public information office did not immediately return Gay City News’ request to confirm the information reported in other media.
The NYPD released a photo and video footage of the suspect on May 7, two days after the attack.
The release described the man sought as a light-skinned black man wearing a black blazer and a white shirt. A photo still in the release appears to be from a security camera, presumably in the restaurant, and is time-stamped at 10:20 p.m. on May 5, roughly 45 minutes before the man was caught on amateur video slamming a chair over the heads of 25-year-old Ethan York-Adams and his 32-year-old boyfriend, Jonathan Snipes.
That assault occurred at the end of roughly a minute in which Snipes was twice seen on the floor as his assailant, a large bald and bearded man, appeared to be kicking him. The scene was captured in a video that Isaam Sharef, a customer at Dallas BBQ, uploaded to his Instagram and YouTube pages in the hours after the assault.
Snipes sustained bruises and cuts to the right side of his face and head, including a long gash running from his ear. York-Adams was brought to the ground when hit by the chair, while Snipes sat down and appeared dazed.
As the melee unfolded, others in the restaurant broke it up on two separate 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.
Snipes and police both said the two men declined medical attention after an ambulance arrived on the scene at 23rd Street on Eighth Avenue. Snipes’ mother, Trish Snipes, who spoke to Gay City News from her home in Alabama, said her son was concerned about the cost of emergency room care, which he understood would consist primarily of overnight observation for a concussion. She expressed concern, however, that he might lose some teeth, which she said were loosened in the assault.
Snipes told DNAinfo.com that the attack began when he accidentally knocked over a drink and, “a table near us audibly started making pretty gross comments about the two of us like, ‘White faggots, spilling drinks.’” Snipes said he then confronted the men, and a fight ensued.
Hours after Gay City News posted an initial story about the attack on the evening of May 6, however, Sharef sent a message to the newspaper saying, “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.”
Neither Snipes nor York-Adams responded to online and telephone requests for comment. Sharef did not respond to a follow-up question as to whether he witnessed anything before what he described as Snipes’ first punch.
Though the NYPD, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, 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 was being investigated as bias-related by the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
Snipes’ mother told Gay City News that 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.
On May 8, State Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Corey Johnson, both out gay Democrats who represent the neighborhood, joined a group of activists, including members of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, in flyering outside the Dallas BBQ about what they termed a hate crime. Asked if they were concerned about the allegation that Snipes in fact threw the first punch, Johnson noted that the NYPD, which presumably knows more about the incident than anyone else, was treating the matter as a bias crime.
“The NYPD takes these types of incidents very seriously,” said Johnson. “At this time, they have determined this to be a hate crime... This was a brutal, out-of-control attack. That’s unacceptable.”
“The details as we know them have shaken a lot of members of our community,” Hoylman said. “We need to let Chelsea know that we’re standing alongside the victims.”
Anyone with information about the Dallas BBQ attack or knowledge of El-Amin’s whereabouts can call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers at 646-610-6806, visit NYPDCrimeS