Members of a Bronx gang who allegedly beat and tortured a new recruit they thought was gay along with two other men in separate attacks early this week are claiming that the gang's leader threatened them into participating in the assaults.
Police told the New York Daily News that several members of the gang, known as the Latin King Goonies, claimed that the gang's leader, Ildefonso (Cheto) Mendez, orchestrated the assault and told them that they would be slashed and beaten as well if they did not participate.
Eight members of the gang are being held on charges of burglary, robbery, assault, menacing, unlawful imprisonment and criminal sex acts, which are being added as a hate crime, police said. One suspect, Rudy Vargas-Perez, 22, is also being sought in the incident.
The alleged attacks came amid heightened attention nationwide to anti-gay bullying after a string of suicides last month were attributed to harassment they had suffered.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the first of the alleged assaults occurred at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx.
In the first incident, gang members allegedly forced a 17-year-old potential recruit for the street gang to an empty apartment in the Bronx that they used for parties and sex, Kelly said.
"He was thrown into a wall, made to strip naked, hit in the head with a beer can, cut with a box cutter and sodomized with the wooden handle of a plunger," the commissioner said.
The alleged attackers, apparently angry he was gay, yelled anti-gay insults and questioned him about his contact with a 30-year-old man, according to police.
The teen was eventually released by the attackers and instructed not to tell anyone, police said. He then walked to a hospital where he was treated, but he reported that his injuries were from a robbery, according to police.
The gang members then attacked another 17-year-old also thought to have had a relationship with the 30-year-old and then the older man as well, police said. They allegedly lured both to the same apartment with a story that there was a party there.
The second teen was allegedly assaulted at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to police.
When the 30-year-old arrived about an hour later, the nine gang members allegedly stripped him to his underwear and tied him to a chair opposite the other teen, who they forced to burn the man with cigarettes, police said.
They allegedly beat the 30-year-old, forced him to drink 10 cans of the malt beverage Four Loko that he had brought with him, and sodomized him with a small baseball bat, according to police.
"These suspects employed terrible wolf-pack odds of nine-against-one, odds which revealed them as predators whose crimes were as cowardly as they were despicable," Kelly said.
"This was not part of an initiation," he added. "This was a reaction to the fact that they had engaged in homosexual activity."
While the two were being held captive, five of the assailants allegedly went to the 30-year-old's home and let themselves in with keys stolen from the victim, police said. They then allegedly attacked his older brother and robbed him of $1,000, a 52-inch TV and two debit cards.