Black youths shoot Hasidic men with paintball gun; DA calls it hate crime

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Kaser – Three suspects were arrested by Ramapo Police on the night of August 7 for allegedly spraying two Hasidic men with paintballs in a late night attack.

The event occurred at about 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night in Kaser. Victim Josef Margaretten, 35, was standing against his car with his friend Sholmo Pinkasovits on Rita Avenue. A car with North Carolina plates passed and somebody inside allegedly yelled an anti-Semitic slur before five or six shots were fired, striking Margaretten twice in the abdomen.

Owing to the targets’ membership in the Haverim community patrol, the incident was immediately broadcast over Margaretten and Pinkasovits’ portable radios. In response, patrolling Haverim cars followed and boxed in the suspect vehicle at Frances Place in Monsey. Once Ramapo Police arrived, they discovered a CO2 powered paintball gun and placed the three occupants under arrest.

The three suspects, Shashi Ramsaroop, 23 of North Carolina, his pregnant girlfriend Lindsey Peaks, 20 formerly of Spring Valley and Demetrius Latrell Torain, 19 of Spring Valley, were charged with second degree assault as a hate crime, a Class D felony. They were also charged with second degree aggravated harassment, fourth degree possession of a weapon and third degree criminal tampering, all misdemeanors.

Local leaders condemned the attack, with Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence announcing at a press conference last week that Ramapo was a “very ethnically diverse community,” which would not tolerate violence.

The incident has been assumed by most residents to be connected to recent tensions between Orthodox Jewish and non-Orthodox Jewish communities. Many Ramapo residents, particularly minorities living in East Ramapo, have been at odds with the town’s Orthodox community over issues including stewardship of public education, housing affordability, alleged special treatment of the Orthodox community by the town’s government and general insensitivity toward other communities’ needs.

Ramapo Town Board candidate Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV said the use of violence was never a valid option, but explained the incident did expose a need for both communities to examine ways they could work together to their mutual benefit. “We can’t coexist under the current conditions,” McWilliams explained.

Wilbur Aldridge, a Rockland resident and regional director for the NAACP’s Mid-Hudson-Westchester chapter, explained the situation in Ramapo had been building for some time and tensions had to be diffused, but Orthodox leaders were often unwilling to open up dialogue, favoring the isolation of their own communities.

“We will continue to see incidents such as the paintball incident or worse if tensions continue to mount,” Aldridge explained.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the arrests of three young men. “This is a sad reminder that people in our community continue to be singled out because of their religious beliefs,” said Etzion Neuer, ADL Acting New York Regional Director. “Hate crimes and anti-Semitism are unacceptable in any community. The alleged assailants are all young adults and this fact reinforces the critical need for young people to learn the importance of respecting differences.”

County Legislator Toney Earl, who represents Spring Valley, suggested he would favor a meeting of community leaders in an effort to diffuse tensions in Ramapo, but also suggested an aggressive policy on hate crimes should remain in place.

“Hate crimes are special cases and should be punished with harsher penalties,” Earl explained. “They should be treated different and should be investigated to the fullest.”