A crime, a tattoo and a ghost

6a00d83451c45669e20120a5e9b5b8970b-500wiThe facts of the case are clear and brutal, according to a number of reports in New York media. Here's an online New York Times report, as a starter. An openly gay man named Jack Price left a deli in the College Point neighborhood in Queens early in the morning after buying some cigarettes. At that point, there was a confrontation with two men who shouted anti-gay remarks and then severely beat him, as captured on video by a nearby security camera.

Two men have been arrested and charged with the beating, which has been condemned by city officials as a hate crime. The crime also fit into a pattern in that area of the city.

This is not the first time a gay-related hate crime has unfolded in Queens. In 2001, Edgar Garzon was attacked outside of a gay club in Jackson Heights, Queens, and died from his injuries. Near the same location in 1990, another man, Julio Rivera, was killed "because he was gay," as one of the defendants in the case later said.

So why discuss this case at GetReligion? There is another layer of the story, according to the facts reported by the local ABC affiliate.

I wish I could post the URL for that video, but something related to that particular site is causing all of my web browsers to crash. Here is a link to a a GLAAD site that contains that link, and others.

However, there is a piece in The Advocate that summarizes the issues. You see, one of the attackers has a friend -- or someone who claims he is a friend -- and this person has a tattoo.

A friend of one of the suspects in last weekend's brutal hate crime in Queens, N.Y., says that the assault was not a hate crime, and that the victim, an openly gay man, deserved the "beat down." The friend proudly displays a tattoo of the Leviticus passage often used to condemn gay people. ...

ABC 7 News spoke with Marcel Gelmi, a friend of Rodriguez, who said that Price had propositioned men in the neighborhood and blown his assailants a kiss, which justified what he called a "beat down." Gelmi also showed off a shoulder tattoo with the passage from Leviticus 18:22 that says, "Thou shall not lie with a male as one does with a woman. It is an abomination."

This raises a number of questions worth pursuing, such as: What is the connection, if any, between Gelmi and the man charged in the attack? At this point, there are no facts on that, only Gelmi's word as he spins his justification for the attack.

By the way, the allegation that Price flirted or taunted someone is irrelevant when it comes to the facts that authorities will consider when investigating the crime. If Price taunted them, so what? If they taunted him back, so what? The issue is a violent street crime that would be condemned by, well, about 99.9 percent of people who are concerned about these issues, from gay-rights groups to ex-gay groups. If someone tries to justify this crime, that is news. For sure.

Two thugs -- for whatever reason -- seriously beat this man up. The press needs to report all the facts on that. And journalists have ever right to ask if either of the attackers have similar tattoos or, well, secular versions of the same. Is there some chance that, instead of being mere criminals, these men are part of some bizarre congregation -- perhaps with a resident tattoo artist who shares its worldview -- that preaches violence against gays?

I mean, that is a bizarre tattoo. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? If you search the web for "Leviticus 18:22" and "tattoo," all you get is references to this story. This guy doesn't seem to be part of a digital flock. However, it's possible that Gelmi was raised in an extremist church and then moved on to join some group -- a gang, perhaps -- that advocates violence. He may frequent bars full of anti-gay thugs.

All of this assumes, of course, that the man with the tattoo has some fact-based connection to this despicable crime, something beyond a desire to have his bicep on television and to direct irrelevant insults toward a severely injured man.

So is there a ghost connected to this Gelmi character? Certainly. Is there a religion ghost in this story? We don't know.

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