Columnists » William Kapfer

Exercise Caution When Walking Alone at Night

by William Kapfer
Tuesday Jul 5, 2011

I just returned from my 4th of July holiday on Fire Island. During that recent visit I met a young man at a cocktail party who had been attacked by a tall dark stranger as he made his way out for the evening. He told me his story of the man approaching him in a seductive way, asking him what he was doing - then demanding money and mugging him.

The story disturbed me so I interviewed the victim for Edge. Below is the story that ran on our Edge Media Network. The piece really speaks to always being aware of your surroundings and trying to travel with a friend when at all possible.

Gay Man Reports Assault in Fire Island Pines
Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove have made "Fire Island" synonymous with "gay resort paradise." The two communities are considered so safe that people traditionally never lock their doors, and no one ever looks behind him on one of the rolling boardwalks that are the common streets here.

Crime pretty much consists of people from the mainland breaking crashing in homes during the winter off-season or the occasional theft. But for one gay man, Fire Island Pines became the scene of the kind of street crime that most visitors believe they had left in New York City, 60 miles to the west of the barrier reef.

The man reportedly suffered a black eye and multiple scratches and bruises over his body. According to a police report and an interview with the victim (who wishes to remain anonymous), at approximately 10:45 p.m. on Friday, July 1, he was walking not far from the harbor on the eastern side of the town on the Burma Road, the wide sand path that runs alongside Fire Island Boulevard, the community's main street.

A man he described as probably Latino, in his twenties, with dark features. "He was a very hot Latin dude," the victim told EDGE. "He approached me, asked me what I was doing, and then he asked me for money. It never occurred to me what was going to happen."

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the unknown suspect attempted to take the victim's watch and cash, but was unable to do so. The assailant then allegedly launched an assault. "He knew what he was doing," the victim reported, pointing to his injuries. "He did this in just seconds."

According to the victim, the scuffle lasted approximately 90 seconds, during which he was bruised and his left arm was badly scratched. Witnesses to the scene probably did not realize what was happening, because it happened so quickly. Shortly after the attack commenced, he recounts, his assailant simply "got up and walked away."

The victim initially was too embarrassed by the attack to report it to the police. Instead, he returned the house where he was staying. It was only cajoling by others that he was prompted to report the assault.

"It took about 30 minutes for a police officer to arrive," he told EDGE, who added the police were solicitous and helpful. "[The officer] said he had been doing this for 20 years and this incident was an anomaly. He was very understanding."

The July 4th Weekend is one of (if not the) biggest weekends of the year in the Pines, with visitors pouring in -- not all of them with a place to stay or enough money for the notoriously expensive community. One local businessperson who lives just off the harbor area told EDGE that he and his wife were awakened at about 4 a.m. by two men who seemed to be drunk (or high, or both) and asked if they could sleep there.

The Suffolk Police Department's Hate Crime Task Force is not pursuing the attack. A spokesperson told EDGE that there was no indication that this was an anti-gay hate crime. Instead, the Suffolk PD is investigating the incident as an attempted robbery in the third degree, with the victim's sexuality incidental.

The victim offers this advice to others who experience similar encounters: "I say, 'Give him your wallet.'"


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