The New York City Police Department's Hate Crimes unit is investigating an alleged beating in Queens that the victims say may have been racially motivated. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
It was supposed to be a happy occasion. Billie and Jacob James-Vogel were celebrating her 40th birthday early Saturday morning, but at around 1:30 a.m., however, things went terribly wrong.
As they left Shi restaurant with a gay friend, they said that three men attacked them, screaming racial and homophobic slurs.
"When I think about the slurs, the N-word and the F-word, it hurts. It hurts. It hurts." Billie James-Vogel said. "It breaks my heart."
The injuries were more than just emotional. Jacob said he was repeatedly bashed, hit in the face and tossed to the ground.
"I fell down. I was on my right side, so I was protecting my face with my arm," he said. "I'm sore here, and my face was pummeled on the left side."
Billie said that she, too, was thrown to the ground, broke her toe and banged her head.
"I see these guys rushing my husband, on top of my husband," she said. "I try to get them off of my husband. One of them grabs me and throws me to the ground. The back of my head bounces off the concrete sidewalk, and I black out."
The couple said that while it was all going on, they went back to Shi for help, but were turned away at the door.
Shih Lee, the co-owner of the restaurant, said police were called, and said they couldn't let anyone back in out of fear for their other patrons.
"We couldn't assess the situation," Lee said. "The police had already been called, so we'd rather wait for them to come first."
The James-Vogels said that after the cops left, one of their attackers came back pretending to be a police officer while they were waiting in an ambulance.
"The EMT drivers didn't let him into the ambulance," Jacob James-Vogel said. "They then followed him and called the police.
Police say 28-year-old Nikolaos Katsos was arrested and charged with assault and harassment.
Police are continuing to investigate this incident as a hate crime and are looking for others involved.
The charges against Katsos could be upgraded.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visitwww.nypdcrimestoppers.com