Suspect Arrested in BBQ Restaurant Chair Attack: NYPD - NBC New York

Suspect Arrested in BBQ Restaurant Chair Attack: NYPD

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    Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin in court Tuesday

    A man who allegedly smashed a wooden chair over the heads of two men in a brutal attack inside a Manhattan restaurant last month that was captured on video has been arrested, according to police.

    Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin turned himself in to police Tuesday and was arrested on felony assault and felony attempted assault charges, the NYPD says.

    El-Amin, who police previously described as a "career criminal," is accused of attacking two men inside Dallas BBQ on May 5 after an argument. Police said they thought El-Amin had fled New York after the attack; it's not clear where he was detained Tuesday. 

    Surveillance video of the attack shows the two men head toward a front window as the attacker approaches them with the wooden chair. The attacker then flings the chair over his head, and a loud crack and screams can be heard as he smashes it on the victims' skulls.

    One of the victims, John Snipes, had told DNAInfo and other media outlets that he and his boyfriend were attacked "specifically because they knew we weren't their type of people," and that the attacker directed racist and homophobic slurs at them.

    But El-Amin's attorney, Raoul Zaltzberg, said Tuesday his client was attacked first. He added that there is more video showing him as he is "sitting there with his friends, eating dinner, minding his own business, and plain as day, he gets struck by one of these individuals." 

    "The video the media has only shows the end of what happened, where the reality of the situation was my client was attacked first," Zaltzberg said outside court after El-Amin's appearance. "There is a lot more to this video than people have seen."

    The comments reinforce what El-Amin said in an interview with The G-List earlier this month, when he said that he was the one who was targeted.

    El-Amin, described as an HIV/AIDS counselor and ballroom community leader who's lived in New York City for nine years, told the blog he was leaving a charity event with friends the night of May 5 when they decided to go to Dallas BBQ. Inside the restaurant, they noticed two men arguing with each other, and the disturbance threatened to spill over to a nearby table where several women were seated, according to El-Amin.

    "So I said, 'Hey guys! There are ladies here,'" El-Amin told the G-List in the previous interview. "I said it in a tone that was authoritative to get their attention. However, they continued."

    "Moments later, it appeared that Mr. Snipes (one of the two men) was going to leave the restaurant. But by standing at the door, he directed his attention toward me, walked toward me and said, 'And YOU calling us ladies!' And then he struck me. He struck me in the head with an object. I'm not sure what it was, but it felt like a heavy blunt object -- and it hurt," he said. 

    El-Amin said he felt shocked and confused and that he had no idea why he'd been hit, but felt he needed to react quickly before he was hit again.

    "So I immediately went at him. I got up toward him, and that's where you see the video started," he said. 

    After the chair hit, one of the men lands in a seat and appears to be dazed by the impact; the other man appears to fall to the floor. The assailant, meanwhile, walks out of the restaurant.

    El-Amin told The G-List there was no provocation on his part and he never uttered any slur word at John Snipes. Snipes first identified himself as one of the men attacked by El-Amin when video of the attack went public. 

    "He definitely made false accusations and tried to put a crime on me that did not happen," El-Amin said of Snipes. 

    Zaltzberg said he had no comment on why his client waited over a month to turn himself in. He said his client plans to press charges.

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