By Rachel Holliday Smith / DNAinfo New York
A detective from the NYPD’s hate crimes department is working with local detectives who are investigating an act of vandalism at a Crown Heights deli last weekend, despite the fact that the incident has not been deemed a hate crime, said the commanding officer of the 71st Precinct.
Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon explained that the Oct. 11 incident — in which surveillance video caught teens ransacking Gourmet Butcher on Troy Avenue and Carroll Street — “hasn’t been deemed any type of a hate crime.” But he said a detective from the hate crimes department is working with detectives at the 71st Precinct on the investigation nevertheless.
“I spoke with the Hate Crimes captain and we do have a detective from Hate Crimes who’s basically second-seating the investigation, just in case it might turn that way,” Fitzgibbon told those present at a precinct community council meeting Thursday night.
“The detective squad is looking into it,” he added. “They’re looking at the video and the footage, at exactly the event that occurred.”
He said the investigation is ongoing and no suspects have been identified, but added that, though the video shows lots of “youths” outside of the store, he said, police believe only two kids went inside.
“One individual went inside of that store. He grabbed a rack of whatever it may be, pulled the rack down. A second individual, another youth, went inside and grabbed him, pulled him out and they ran down Troy Avenue,” he said.
The incident received considerable attention this week from international media, local elected officials and the Anti-Defamation League.
On Tuesday, Borough President Eric Adams hosted a press conference at Borough Hall with many local leaders to condemn recent hate crimes in Brooklyn, with a particular focus on an assault on a Jewish man at the Barclays Center on Oct. 7. But Adams included the Gourmet Butcher incident in his remarks, as well.
“The venom and the acts that we have witnessed the last few days is not acceptable,” he said on Tuesday, adding later that the owner of Gourmet Butcher “has stated repeatedly that individuals have entered his store and used hate terminology.”
“That is really not fitting of today’s times. We will not go backwards,” he said.
Gourmet Butcher’s owners said kids have come into the store previously and asked “is Hitler working here?” and run out.
The ADL also considers the incident a hate crime, despite the police department’s classification.
“This outrageous attack on a Jewish business is a shocking hate crime that has left the Jewish community in Crown Heights deeply shaken and understandably angry and concerned for their safety,” said Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s regional director in New York, in a statement on Tuesday.