Councilman pleads for witnesses to come forward after attack on gay man in Sunnyside

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In a plea that occasionally brought tears to his eyes, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) asked residents to come forward with any information they may have about a brutal attack Saturday on a 62-year-old Sunnyside resident, who is now fighting for his life.

“All of us are devastated by what has happened,” Van Bramer said. “We have got to find the people who did this.”

Details are scarce on the crime, but Van Bramer said a witness saw 62-year-old Lou Rispoli walking and talking with two men around 2 a.m. on 43rd Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets while another man waited in a vehicle nearby. The two men then hit Rispoli on the head hard enough that he has now been placed in hospice care, Van Bramer said.

“He is now tragically dying at Elmhurst Hospital,” said Van Bramer. “He will not survive, and this will be a homicide.”

The councilman described the crime in a news conference at his district office Thursday and showed a picture of Rispoli in hopes any witnesses who may have seen him walking in the area had more information.

Rispoli was openly gay and married to a man who he had been with for 32 years. Rispoli’s husband and family have asked to remain anonymous, although friend Mark Horn read a statement on behalf of them urging residents with information to come forward. The statement described Rispoli as a great conversationalist and a funny man known for his dinner parties.

“We find ourselves speechless with grief and disbelief,” Horn read.

Horn said Rispoli was an insomniac and was known to walk late at night, but the family did not know why Rispoli might have been talking to the men.

Van Bramer said he was a friend of Rispoli, who worked on Van Bramer’s campaign in 2009. His eyes were red as he spoke of Rispoli.

“He was a very, very strong man,” Van Bramer said. “He was funny, and he brought laughter and joy to us all.”

No description of the attackers is currently available. Van Bramer said the men may have been in their 20s and that one of them was tall. There is no known surveillance footage of the attack, Van Bramer said. It is also unclear whether or not the crime was based on Rispoli’s sexual orientation.

“Some people may share our frustration that there isn’t more,” Van Bramer said. “We don’t know enough.”

Those with information are asked to contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. Information can also be sent via the CrimeStopp­ers’ website at nypdcrimestoppers or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

“It is difficult enough to know that we’ve lost Lou,” Van Bramer said. “It is impossible to believe the people who did this would get away with it.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 11:33 am, October 26, 2012
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