At approximately 2 a.m., Lou Rispoli, 62, was attacked with a blunt object by two men who were walking with him, and according to an eyewitness, a third suspect acted as a lookout and getaway driver. Rispoli was found in critical condition outside of 41-00 43rd Street by police.
Investigators believe Rispoli may have been targeted for the attack because he is openly gay.
The same day Rispoli died, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held a press conference to spread the word about the attack, as well as announce a $22,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
Van Bramer first met Rispoli while running for the City Council in 2009. Rispoli was excited about the prospect of another openly gay man representing the district, and even threw a fundraiser at his home for Van Bramer.
While discussing the events that led to Rispoli's death, Van Bramer had to pause on several occasions to fight back tears. A few times he lost the battle.
“To see Lou in his hospital bedroom is to see a level of violence and depravity that you could not imagine exists,” he said. “Whoever did this has got to be taken off the streets.”
When asked if he felt that the attacks were motivated by anti-gay members of the community, he said that he did not want to speculate, but insisted that Sunnyside is a safe neighborhood.
“I don't think people should be afraid to be who they are,” he said. “Lou was not afraid.”
Van Bramer said it was important to not focus on a person’s sexual orientation when looking at a crime such as this.
“I think any time there's a violent attack on anyone in the neighborhood, we all come together and need to speak out against that violence,” he said. “Lou was a very proud gay man and was indeed someone who fought for full equality for our community, but we don't know if he was attacked because he was a gay man.”
Rispoli was a resident of Sunnyside for roughly 30 years. An active member of the community, friend Mark Horn said that Rispoli liked to take walks. He said that Rispoli was committed to being there for his friends when the AIDS crisis began claiming the lives of members of the gay community.
“He was at the bedside of so many men caring for them when their families weren't,” Horn said. “I don't know anyone who had a bigger heart or had more courage.”
Anyone with information in the attack should call the NYPD's Crimestoppers hotline at (800) 577-TIPS.