NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Muslim NYPD officer who was allegedly a victim of a hate crime over the weekend is speaking out about the ordeal.
Officer Aml Elsokary said in a press conference Monday that crimes like this will not be tolerated.
“I have faith that Allah is going to help us through this hard time,” she said. “For my sisters out there, you’re not alone. I’m with you, day and night.”
Elsokary was speaking out after the arrest of a man charged with a hate crime for the vicious threat he allegedly made against her.
Police said Elsokary, who was honored in 2014 for saving a grandmother and her granddaughter from a burning building in Brooklyn, was off-duty Saturday night when she was targeted because of the Muslim head covering she was wearing.
She was dropping her 16-year-old son off at Ridge Boulevard and 67th Street in Bay Ridge and went to park the car. When she returned, authorities said a man was shoving and yelling at Elsokary’s son.
When Elsokary approached, police said the man yelled at her “ISIS (expletive), I will cut your throat, go back to your country!”
The accused, 36-year-old Christopher Nelson of Bay Ridge, was arrested on charges including menacing as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment, authorities said. He was arraigned Monday and bail was set at $50,000.
Nelson’s neighbors were shocked by the allegations.
“I’m very surprised,” neighbor Linda Rasport said. “Because I never saw that in him and he’s always been very nice to me and other people in the building.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “sick” when he heard that a hero NYPD officer was allegedly harassed by a man over the weekend because of her Muslim faith.
With Elsokary sitting by his side in a Monday press conference, Blasio called the incident “unacceptable” in this city and this nation.
“I was sick to my stomach when I heard that one of our officers was subjected to threats and taunting simply because of her faith,” he said Monday at an NYPD crime statistics news conference. “We can’t allow this.”
“This is Officer Elsokary’s country. She is an American, she is a New Yorker. She is already at home,” de Blasio said Monday. “She serves this city. She is an example of everything we would want from our fellow citizens — a commitment to others, a commitment to service, a willingness to do something greater than herself and what does she get for it? Threats to her life and bigotry, taunts.”
Elsokary said Monday that she became a cop to help all New Yorkers, regardless of their beliefs.
“I’m born and raised here and I’m here to protect you and I know that my department and my city is here to protect me,” she said. “I became a police officer to show the positive side of a New Yorker, Muslim woman that can do the job, that is non-bias, that I can help everybody no matter what’s your religion.”
The NYPD says hate crimes have gone up in the city. Since Election Day on Nov. 8 through Nov. 27, there were 34 reported hate crimes compared to 13 during the same period last year, CBS2 reported.
De Blasio was asked Monday if he blames President-Elect Donald Trump directly for the increase.
“It’s obviously more complicated than that,” the mayor said. “Do I blame Donald Trump for using hate speech during his campaign? Absolutely. He did, it’s a fact. He said horrible things about Muslims, horrible things about Mexican-Americans.”
But he added that Trump “has a chance to make it better by amending his comments and being a force of reconciliation.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has denounced the growing trend of attacks, pushing for increased federal funding to protect places of worship and non-profits 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,” she said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is also calling on the city’s district attorney to institute a no plea bargain rule for anyone charged with a hate crime.
“What happens sometimes, the charges, it’s dropped down to assault by pleaing to lesser crime,” he said. “That crime is no longer on their record no one knows it’s a hate crime.”
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez also issued a statement, saying in part: “Biased-motivated crimes will not be tolerated anywhere in Brooklyn and those who commit hate crimes will be held accountable for their reprehensible and offensive actions.”
On Monday morning, an MTA employee was attacked in Grand Central Station. Sources told CBS2 the suspect allegedly called the victim a “terrorist” and said she shouldn’t be working in the city during the attack.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement following the latest alleged hate crime.
“This is the great state of New York – we welcome people of all cultures, customs and creeds with open arms. We do not allow intolerance or fear to divide us because we know diversity is our strength and we are at our best when we stand united,” Cuomo said.
In a message for others who may find themselves the victim of a hate crime, Elsokary said that her advice is to report it and to not be scared.
“You have a sister who is on this team fighting for you as well,” she said.