NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — 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.
The officer was one of three Muslim women who have reported hate crimes in the last week.
With Officer Aml Elsokary sitting by his side, the mayor 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.”
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!”
“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 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.”
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’s Ali Bauman reported.
On Thursday, an 18-year-old Muslim woman, Yasmin Seweid, says a group of men berated her on the subway.
“They were surrounding me from behind and they were like, ‘Oh look, it’s an f-ing terrorist,” she said.
On Monday, a Muslim Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee was attacked as she headed to work at Grand Central Station.
The assault took place at around 7 a.m. as the victim — Soha Salama, 45 — was heading to work on the 7 train.
The suspect followed her off the train and shoved her down the stairs, police said.
Salama was taken to the hospital for treatment of leg injuries.
“He called me terrorist, I shouldn’t work here, and go back to country,” she told CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
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 pleading 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.”