The massive red, white and blue wreath of flowers from the Indian Consulate standing outside the 19th Precinct on a recent afternoon may have been meant not just to thank the NYPD for its hard work and heroism over the last few weeks, but also to remind them who their friends and supporters are in the challenging months ahead.
Because if bomb scares constituted something of a recurring motif in the early days after the World Trade Center collapse, they’ve been replaced by bias incidents as the crime of choice for those in search of an outlet to vent their fury over the attacks.
Among them was an incident that occurred on Sept. 23, as a New Jersey couple of Indian background crossed the 59th Street Bridge at 5:30 in the afternoon. The victims told the police that they noticed a gray Toyota pull up alongside them, and its driver, a white male approximately 30 years old and wearing an American-flag bandanna, making gestures they chose to ignore.
Then the driver pulled in front of them and put on the brakes, forcing them to stop. He got out, came over to their BMW, started banging on the driver’s-side window and stated, “You fucking Arab! Take off your turban! You Arabs should all go back! I will kill you, you fucking Arabs!”
The perp returned to his car, but continued to drive in an aggressive manner as both cars exited the bridge and traveled down Second Avenue. At 53rd Street and Second, the BMW pulled over while the suspect kept going.
The Indian man, 42, and his wife, 37, contacted the police, who escorted their car to the 19th Precinct, where they were interviewed by detectives from both the 19th Precinct and the Hate Crimes Task Force. The victim, who told police there was a second individual in the car, was able to provide some information regarding their assailant’s license-plate number.
In another incident, at a Second Avenue chicken store on Sept. 21, a man entered the store at 4:15 a.m., ordered a drink and then left after announcing that he didn’t want to pay for it. He returned approximately 20 minutes later with two other men and asked an employee, “Are you Arab?” When the worker answered yes, the perp threw plates on the floor and left. His companions didn’t participate in the attack.
An East 85th Street dry cleaner, described as a 45-year-old male Egyptian, was at work at 9:14 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he heard someone banging on his rear door. He opened the door a few inches, peered out and saw a 45-year-old man. When he opened the door further, the perp menaced him with a six-inch knife and stated repeatedly, “Get out of my country, you terrorist.”
The victim called 911. The police responded and arrested the perp, who lived in the same building as the dry-cleaning store.
On Sept. 20, the Iraqi Mission was threatened by five males whom the police described as possible off-duty New Jersey police officers. One of them approached an NYPD cop who was guarding the mission at 11:45 a.m. The suspect allegedly produced a detective shield and stated that he and his colleagues were going to remove the Iraqi Mission’s flag and that they didn’t care whether they were arrested.
A police official and an Iraqi Mission employee said that the incident may have been sparked by stories in the New York Post about the mission’s decision not to lower its flag to half-staff in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, as other foreign missions did. The Iraqi Mission worker said that while the suspects didn’t threaten the mission directly, the Post article “created a lot of problems.”
When the NYPD cop summoned assistance, the suspects fled on East 79th Street in a blue 1997 Suburban with New Jersey plates. While a canvas of the area proved negative, the van’s plates were traced back to a police department in New Jersey. A police source said that standard protocol in such an incident (not that there was anything standard about it) would be for the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Division to contact the internal-affairs unit of the New Jersey police department in question.
Finally, the Trade Center attack provided an opportunity for a petty larceny on the morning of the catastrophe. An East 86th Street resident reported to the police that as she was standing in front of her building at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, an upset woman, approximately 30 years old, approached her and stated, “I have to call my family.”
The victim invited her to use the phone in her apartment. Two days later, she realized that a gold ring with three bands of diamonds, two antique broaches and a gold and pearl necklace were missing.