NEW YORK — Outraged city leaders said Saturday that the city wouldn't tolerate the "vicious" hatred that had apparently caused a street gang to allegedly beat and torture two teenage boys and a man inside an abandoned home over the course of several hours because they were gay.
Police arrested an eighth suspect in the beatings Saturday, while a ninth remained at large.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that several of the suspects had made statements implicating themselves in the crime, which occurred in a neighborhood where residents said homosexuality is both common and tolerated.
Asked if the men had expressed any remorse for what they had done, Kelly said "I wouldn't call it remorse."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was "sickened" by the violence, that police said included sodomizing one of the men with a plunger handle and hourslong torture of others. The attack came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of teen suicides attributed to it last month around the country.
"Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them," the mayor said. "The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them."
The suspects arrested Thursday and Friday were identified as Ildefonzo Mendez, 23; David Rivera, 21; four 17-year-olds, Steven Caraballo, Denis Peitars, Nelson Falu and Bryan Almonte; and Brian Cepeda, 16. All face charges including robbery, assault and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes; Mendez, Rivera and Falu were additionally charged with committing a criminal sex act.
The eighth suspect, Elmer Confresi, 23, of the Bronx, turned himself in on Saturday. Kelly said that a lawyer representing the ninth suspect had arranged for his client to turn himself in, but never showed.
The suspects were awaiting possible arraignment Saturday, the Bronx District Attorney's office said.
A reporter knocked on Rivera's door in the Bronx Saturday and no one answered. Telephone numbers could not be found for the other suspects, and it wasn't immediately clear if the suspects had attorneys.
Bryan Almonte's stepmother, Carmen, told The New York Times that the teen was hospitalized Friday night after going into diabetic shock during his arrest. She said his father died three months ago.
"Bryan is not a bad kid," she told the newspaper. "If he was there, he didn't do anything."
Cepeda was interested in becoming a police officer, said his mother, Ada Cepeda.
"He's not rude; he's quite intelligent," Cepeda told the Times. "I'm a realist. It's not that my son is a saint. But I doubt he would do that."
Police said the nine members of a gang that called itself the Latin King Goonies went berserk after hearing a rumor that one of their new recruits, a 17-year-old, was gay, and trapped and brutalized the men on Oct. 3-4.
Investigators say the teen was stripped, beaten and sodomized with a plunger handle until he confessed to having had sex with a 30-year-old man who lives a few blocks away.
Then, the group grabbed a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him, too, police said. Finally, they invited the 30-year-old to the house, telling him they were having a party. When he arrived, they burned, beat and tortured him for hours. The attack included sodomizing him with a miniature baseball bat, police said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is gay, and other elected officials went to the empty brick townhouse where the attacks took place Saturday and passed out leaflets imploring residents to turn in the remaining suspects.
"People were very, very clear that they wanted it to be known that the acts of these individulas do not represent their neighborhood," said Quinn. "They were as stunned as anyone that something so violent, so premeditated ... could happen here."
Gay men and women lived openly in the neighborhood, and while residents were disturbed by some past violent behavior by the suspects, some said they hadn't previously targeted homosexuals.
"I was friends with all of them," said Natty Martinez, a gay 16-year-old who lives in the neighborhood.
"They were chill. There was no beef," she said Saturday. "I had no idea they had no heart."
Sitting on the steps of the home where the attacks took place, Martinez and three teenage friends said the accused men had frequently partied in an empty apartment on the block.
The girls said the young men were "the nicest ever." Some even went to church, they said. But they added that when the group drank heavily, they did bad things and sometimes beat up people.
Word of the assaults apparently reached residents long before police had pieced together what happened.
Jaymarie Mendez, 16, said she heard about the attack, "the next day," but said that, like other young people in the area, "We don't talk to cops. We don't like them."
The victims, authorities said, didn't call the police either.
"How can people do something like that?" asked Keith Handsford, 35, an air conditioning repairman who lives next to the building where the assaults took place.
He said he had two teenage nieces who were gay, and lived in the neighborhood, who have had no problems with serious harassment.