Sam Mellish In Pictures via Getty Images Images / Twitter @NYPDTips Video Screenshot
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The Buceo 95 restaurant in New York City regularly displays LGBTQ flags, pictures of President Joe Biden, and Ukraine flags. The tapas restaurant has hosted drag queen shows in the past.
Fred Innocent, a 45-year-old homeless man, is accused of taking two flags off a table at Buceo 95 in the Upper West Side around 10 a.m. on April 15. Innocent was reportedly caught on the restaurant's surveillance cameras defecating on an LGBTQ flag and wiping his backside with the other gay pride rainbow flag.
Buceo 95 owner Courtney Barroll told the New York Daily News, "This was a total hate crime. He came in within 15 minutes of us opening up the restaurant. He could have gone to Popeyes or McDonald’s around the corner. He could have used napkins."
Barroll vowed, "For the two flags that he has taken from us, I will put 50 more up, and I'll wallpaper the whole restaurant with them."
Barroll declared, "If I’m asked to go to court, I’m going to press for the maximum charge possible."
Nathan Nolen Edwards, the gay general manager of Buceo 95, said the incident was "definitely a punch to the gut. ... A defecation on a pride flag is not the norm here."
The restaurant provided the footage to the New York Police Department. The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force initiated an investigation and then launched a manhunt for the homeless man.
\u201cWANTED HATE CRIME On 4/15/23 @ 10:00 AM, inside 201 West 95 St @NYPD24PCT the unidentified individual entered the location & defecated on a Pride flag. Any info call us at 800-577-TIPS or anonymously post a tip on our website https://t.co/TRPPY5zHV2 Reward up to $3,500.\u201d— NYPD Crime Stoppers (@NYPD Crime Stoppers) 1682745373
Investigators discovered that Innocent's address was a shelter in Harlem. He was arrested this week in Midtown.
Innocent was charged with burglary, harassment, and trespassing — all classified as hate crimes. He was also hit with additional charges of trespassing and burglary, which were not labeled as hate crimes.
New York State defines a hate crime as a "traditional offense that is motivated by bias" where a person commits a specified set of crimes "targeting a victim because of a perception or belief about their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, or when such an act is committed as a result of that type of perception or belief."
The New York Daily News reported, "In January of this year, he was arrested for burglary after swiping a purse from an employees-only area of a Manhattan hotel, cops said. Last October, he was busted for grand larceny and in 2007 and 1998, he was hit with felony assault charges in the Bronx, according to the NYPD."
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Paul Sacca is a staff writer for Blaze News.