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Man arrested in bias incident at Voodoo Lounge

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A Yonkers man who was stabbed at the Voodoo Lounge in Bayside March 24 was arrested Friday and charged with a hate crime for making racial slurs at his attacker the night of the incident, said Capt. Kevin Fitzgerald of the 111th Police Precinct Tuesday night.

The Voodoo Lounge was in violation of a city Health Department order that should have shut down the Bell Boulevard club the night the Yonkers man and two other white men were stabbed allegedly by a Hispanic man in what police described as a bias incident.

The three were stabbed at the Voodoo Lounge after allegedly taunting Juaquin Ramirez, who was at the club with a white girl, and then bumping into the girl, Fitzgerald said. Ramirez was arrested and charged with assault in the stabbing, he said

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Christopher Shaw, 31, of 1 Sherwood Terrace in Yonkers, was arrested Friday and charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime, Fitzgerald said. Of the three men who were stabbed, the captain said, two were suspected of making racial remarks at Ramirez and one was considered an innocent bystander by police.

The Voodoo Lounge will stay closed, Fitzgerald told the Tuesday night meeting of the 111th Police Precinct Council, at least until an April 17 hearing between the club management and the property owner.

City Health Department spokesman Greg Butler said the Voodoo Lounge was ordered to close on March 16 when the agency discovered that the club was operating without a city permit.

The club continued to operated despite the Health Department order, Butler said, and was shuttered on March 27 three days after the stabbing at the heavy metal club. The Hispanic patron is believed to have reacted to several hours of harassing racial comments by the three white men, who were not seriously injured, police said.

The attack at the Voodoo Lounge at 47-29 Bell Blvd. marked the second bias-related incident in a month on Bell Boulevard and sparked the call for a meeting of Bayside civic and community groups last Thursday at MS 158 in Bayside.

Fitzgerald of the 111th Precinct in Bayside told the civic leaders there could be another arrest made over the next two weeks in the February beating and bias attack on a young black man outside a Bayside café by a group of three or four white men — not 10 as police originally believed.

Two brothers from Whitestone were arrested in the Feb. 23 beating outside the Byzantio Bar and Grill at 45-30 Bell Blvd., which has been classified as a hate crime. Angelo and Giuseppe Gigliotti were charged with several counts of robbery, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and menacing in connection with the attack, during which the brothers allegedly yelled racial remarks at the victim, police said.

At the meeting organized by city council candidate and Bayside Hills civic leader Jerry Iannece, Fitzgerald updated some 25 representatives of the community’s civics, churches and schools on the Byzantio case.

“We should be able to arrest a third person by the end of the week,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to come to a conclusion soon.”

Representatives from the Bayside Clear-Springs Council, the East Bayside Homeowners Association, the Bayside Hills Civic Association, the Douglaston Civic Association, several area churches, representatives of PS 31 and MS 158 in Bayside, and the northeast Queens chapter of the NAACP attended the meeting at MS 158 in Bayside last week.

Iannece said he called the meeting because he thought the recent violent incidents required a response.

“We felt compelled that there be a civic response,” Iannece said. “As responsible people we need to get to the bottom of what happened at the Byzantio and this past weekend.”

Ken Cohen, head of the northeast Queens chapter of the NAACP, said the community needed to send a message about the recent spat of bias attacks.

“These incidents are starting to build,” he said. “We need to make sure that the message is clear that these incidents must be shut down.”

In response to the attacks at Byzantio and the Voodoo Lounge, Fitzgerald said the religious leaders in the 111th Precinct were considering re-establishing an interfaith council that had been active about 15 years ago.

In addition, Iannece and other civic leaders at last Thursday’s meeting suggested a similar coalition should be formed of civic organization and other community groups.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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