NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man has been charged after a hero Muslim NYPD officer was threatened and told to “go back to your country” as she dropped off her son in Brooklyn, police said Sunday.
Christopher Nelson, 36, of Brooklyn, was arrested late Sunday and charged with menacing as a hate crime and aggravated assault in the second degree, police said. He was led to court from the 68th Precinct station late Sunday.
Neighbor Linda Rasport said she did not think Nelson was capable of such hateful actions.
“I’m very surprised, yes, I am surprised,” she said, “because I never saw that in him. He’s always been very nice to me and other people in the building.”
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Officer Aml Elsokary was lauded in 2014 for her bravery after saving a grandmother and her 1-year-old granddaughter from a fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But now, she finds herself in the middle of a hate crime investigation.
Police said around 6 p.m. Saturday, Elsokary had gone to park her car at Ridge Boulevard and 67th Street in Bay Ridge when she spotted her 16-year-old son being pushed and berated by a man.
When the off-duty, unarmed officer approached, police said the suspect said to her, “ISIS (expletive), I will cut your throat go back to your country.”
The officer is one of the few Muslim officers who wear a hijab on patrol, the NYPD Muslim Officers Society said.
When detectives reviewed security video, a super told them the suspect is a neighborhood resident who is often seen walking a dog. Her son and the suspect don’t know each other, sources said.
He was being held at the 68th Precinct late Sunday.
This was the second Islamophobic attack in the city in one week. A young woman said she was berated on a subway train on Thursday.
“They were surrounding me from behind and they were like, ‘Oh look, it’s an f-ing terrorist,'” Yasmin Seweid, 18, told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco. “I didn’t answer. They pulled my strap of the bag and it ripped, and that’s when I turned around and I was really polite and I was like, ‘can you please leave me alone?’ and everyone was looking, no one said a thing, everyone just looked away.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) denounced the recent attacks – noting that hate crimes are on the rise across the country.
According to the NYPD, there were 34 reported hate crime incidents in the city between Nov. 8 and Nov. 27 of this year, compared to only 13 during the same period in 2015.
“No new Yorker should ever have to worship in fear,” Gillibrand said. “This hate this language this behavior must never be normalized.”
The senators on Sunday were pushing for increased federal funding to protect places of worship and nonprofits from threats.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to make that sure that these federal funds reach our community to help us stay safe,” Gillibrand said.
Afaf Nasher, Executive Director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement Sunday regarding the incident:
“While Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo both have publicly stated that hate has no place in New York, the number of bias-related attacks continues to climb. President-elect Trump must forcefully and repeatedly address the ugly hatred growing rampant through-out our nation. His rhetoric encouraged hate, racism and xenophobia, and innocent people are being assaulted across our country as a result.”