One of the two teenagers beaten on Sunday morning outside a mosque in Brooklyn said that the attacker called him a “terrorist,” contradicting statements by police.
In a video posted on YouTube, Ahmad Emrech detailed what he says led up to the early morning attack which left him with a concussion, cuts, bruising, and swelling to his eye, head, and face. (The video spells the teen's first name as "Ahmed," but BuzzFeed News understands he spells it "Ahmad.")
“He hit me again repeatedly. He kept calling us both terrorists,” Emrech said.
“Did he call you a terrorist?” the cameraman asks.
“He called me a terrorist, yes,” Emrech responds.
When BuzzFeed News first reported the incident on Sunday, police initially said they had no record of the incident, however photos provided to BuzzFeed News showed multiple officers and police vehicles at the scene.
After several hours, a spokesperson for the NYPD eventually confirmed the incident occurred, but described it as a “non-bias incident."
The NYPD spokesperson said the two teenagers were bothering a woman in a car outside the mosque, causing the man, described as the woman's “acquaintance," to attack the teenagers.
Mohamed Bahe, the mosque's director, and the victim's brother, Yousef Emrech, both adamantly deny that the teenagers were harassing the woman before the attack.
“The hate crimes unit did interview both victims, who said the suspect didn’t say anything anti-Muslim to them,” the NYPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Sunday.
Emrech's YouTube interview appears to contradict the police statement.
“So, do you think he did that because he hates you as a Muslim, or…?” the cameraman asks
“It could be. It could be one of the options, you know,” Emrech responds. “It could either be he doesn’t like Muslims or ah... he’s a Trump fan. I don’t know.”
When asked Tuesday about the discrepancy between Emrech’s claims of being called a “terrorist” in the video and the NYPD's earlier statement to the contrary, a police spokesperson said they could not comment.
Citing an ongoing investigation, the spokesperson said, “This incident has not been deemed a hate crime. The motive of the suspect has been deemed perceived harassment or perceived disrespect of his girlfriend.”
“There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson added.
Surveillance footage of attack provided to BuzzFeed News
The link to the YouTube interview was provided to BuzzFeed News by Emrech’s older brother, Yousef Emrech, in response to an interview request with his younger brother.
Yousef said the video interview was the only interview his brother could give currently because Ahmad was still recovering.
“He needs to rest because these past few days in the hospital the people and the detectives and interviewers were in and out of the hospital talking to him and his blood pressure isn't at a good rate due to this,” the elder Emrech wrote to BuzzFeed News in an email.
Yousef Emrech also appears in the video, describing his brother’s attack as a “personal vendetta against Muslims in the area” and “definitely a hate crime.”
Yousef Emrech and other Muslims in the area are planning a protest against anti-Muslim hate crimes at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement on Sunday, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) asked the NYPD “to investigate a possible bias motive for an alleged attack on a Muslim youth outside a Brooklyn mosque.”
The statement also reiterated claims by the mosque’s director that the mosque had repeatedly “asked the local precinct to increase patrols in the area during the hours of late night prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.”
"This center reached out to those who were supposed to protect them," said CAIR-NY Director Afaf Nasher. "The Muslim community now calls on the same authorities to thoroughly investigate this attack and bring the alleged assailant to justice."
Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, also called for the NYPD to investigate the attack as a hate crime in a statement released on Monday.
“I am deeply disgusted by the assault of two Muslim teenagers that occurred outside of their mosque early this holiday weekend," she said. "This type of hate and violence will never be tolerated in New York City, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
"I urge the NYPD to investigate this as a hate crime, and continue to call on all New Yorkers to report hate crimes against any and all communities,” she said.
Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2
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