“Some of our staff thought it was gunfire and dodged,” he said of the second and third incidents, adding that bar security tried to chase the assailant on both occasions but was unable to grab the person or identify him.
Erik Bottcher, a New York City Council member who represents Hell’s Kitchen and is gay, called the incidents “hate crimes” in a tweet on Sunday and urged anyone with information that could identify the perpetrator to contact the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. DeParolesa said Saturday’s incident has been referred to the task force.
“The epidemic of anti-LGBTQ+ violence is national,” tweeted Mark Levine, Manhattan borough president, on Sunday. “A well-known gay bar on the west side of Manhattan has been attacked repeatedly in recent weeks. We cannot tolerate this.”
The attacks come as the NYPD also investigates a series of robberies and assaults that may be linked to the deaths of two gay men earlier this year after they left Hell’s Kitchen gay bars, the NYPD confirmed this month.
Across the country, just hours after the incident at the VERS on Saturday, a gunman in Colorado Springs opened fire at a gay nightclub, leaving five dead and 19 wounded. Colorado prosecutors on Monday charged the suspect with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bigotry. While the shooter’s motive remains unknown, the mayor of Colorado Springs said on the “TODAY” show that he felt the incident had “all the trappings of a hate crime.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday that she has directed the New York State Police to strengthen protections for at-risk communities, including LGBTQ communities, across the state.
While DeParolesa stressed that his bar is a safe place and that no one was injured during any of the incidents involving his establishment, he said he also feels the country is in a time of “encouraged anti-gay and anti-trans resurgence.”
“The pendulum swings,” he said. “This is the manifestation of that.”