Police on Monday arrested the ninth and final suspect in the brutal attacks on four people touched off because gang members thought one of their recruits was gay.
Ruddy Vargas-Perez, 22, was arrested by members of the Bronx violent felony squad at a relative’s house after his attorney had told authorities he would be surrendering to police on Tuesday. He had failed previously to show up as promised.
Vargas-Perez and eight others were accused of robbery, harassment and sexual abuse after the Oct. 3 attacks. Police say he participated in at least one of the attacks along with the others from his street gang, the Latin King Goonies.
Vargas-Perez was in custody at a police precinct Monday. His telephone number wasn’t listed and his attorney’s name wasn’t known.
The beatings in the Bronx, and the recent string of anti-gay attacks and teen suicides attributed to homophobic bullying, have drawn outraged responses from city and state leaders and gay advocates.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the attacks “completely unacceptable” in prepared remarks before a Monday night dinner for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
He added: “As I said over the weekend, the perpetrators of the abuse and torture in the Bronx will be spared no mercy,” he said.
Three of the gang members saw their 17-year-old recruit coming out of an apartment occupied by a 30-year-old man known throughout the neighborhood as “La Reina.” It was well-known that the man was gay, and the three wanted to know why the teen was at his apartment, authorities said.
They took the teen to an abandoned apartment at about 3:30 a.m. Oct. 3 and beat him until he confessed he had a sexual encounter with the man, police said.
“You crazy, you lost your mind,” gang member Nelson Falu said, as he sliced the teen with a box cutter, prosecutors said. David Rivera hit him in the head with a shaving can and Mendez shoved the wooden handle of a plunger into the teen’s rectum. “Do you like this?” he asked, according to the criminal complaint.
The gang members then found a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him and the man, police say.
Gang ringleader Idelfonzo Mendez then invited the 30-year-old to the party house and asked him to bring alcohol, authorities said. The man met up with Mendez at the corner bodega and he walked with him, unsuspecting, into the apartment where he’d be tortured for hours by all nine suspects, who forced the malt liquor down his throat, prosecutor said.
Prosecutors said Rivera tied the man to a chair with a metal chain and blindfolded him.
From there, he was beaten and sodomized with a small baseball bat, according to the criminal complaint.
During the attack, they took the man’s keys and went to his home, where they beat up and bound his older brother and stole $1,000 in cash from their apartment, prosecutors said.
Eight of the suspects were arraigned Sunday but didn’t enter pleas. Two attorneys, Paul Horowitz and Fred Bittlingmeyer, represented the eight at the arraignment hearing but didn’t expect to represent all of them through the legal process.
The attacks, while vicious, aren’t surprising in the world of outlaw machismo, where being gay is a powerful taboo and broken rules can have violent consequences, experts on gang culture said. Experts said it’s likely the 30-year-old would never have been attacked if he hadn’t been in contact with their recruit.
“A lot of these gang subcultures are pretty homophobic,” said David C. Brotherton, a youth gang expert and chairman of the sociology department at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “And some of them, they definitely have, the proper gangs have rules that don’t permit anybody in the group to be gay.”
Associated Press Writer Sara Kugler Frazier contributed to this report.
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