After ‘unconscionable’ possible hate crime attack on bodega owner, Southern Brooklynites demand accountability

injured coney island bodega owner and potential hate crime attackers
A group of four men attacked a Coney Island bodega owner in an incident the NYPD is now investigating as a hate crime.
Photos courtesy of NYPD/Council Member Justin Brannan

Brooklyn community organizations, local politicians, and supporters called out the men involved in an alleged hate crime against a Coney Island bodega owner on April 17, demanding that the perps are found and held accountable for the attack.

According to an NYPD spokesperson, on Saturday April 15, four men attacked Jamal Sawaid, the owner of a bodega at 1716 Mermaid Avenue. The group allegedly entered the store in the middle of the afternoon and said racial slurs to the 58-year-old as they struck him in the face and the head. One of the assailants used a metal rod to hit the store owner, leaving him cut-up and bloodied.

hate crime press conference
Southern Brooklynites called out a racially motivated attack of a Coney Island shop owner on April 17. Photo courtesy of CAIR-NY

Local leaders called the attack “unconscionable.” Ahmed Mohamed, legal director for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the group wants those involved in this brutal attack to face consequences. 

“We stand in solidarity with Jamal Sawaid and the Brooklyn community against this senseless act of violence,” Mohamed said in a statement. “No one should have to face such brutality, and we call for a thorough hate crime investigation to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. It is imperative that we work together to combat hate in all its forms and create a safe and inclusive environment for all communities.”

Dr. Debbie Almontaser, secretary board and co-founder of the Yemeni-American Merchants Association, called on local and state elected officials to pass laws that would protect merchants from assaults like this.

Jamal Sawaid was left bloodied and bruised after the April 15 attack.
Jamal Sawaid was left bloodied and bruised after the April 15 attack. Photo courtesy of CAIR-NY

“We were outraged and saddened to learn of this horrific attack on Jamal Sawaid, a New York City bodega owner and valued member of his community. We have extended our support to Mr. Sawaid’s family and are praying for a full recovery from this unconscionable attack,” she said in a statement. “This terrible incident is further proof of how urgently we need our elected officials to take action, and pass laws that will deliver real protection for bodega owners and other small businesses who are continuously subjected to threats and violence every single day.” 

Council Member Justin Brannan, one of the many local politicians who gathered in support of the longtime store owner, called him a friend of the neighborhood. 

“Jamal is a friend to everyone. He works hard and smiles. He’s here trying to build a better life for his family,” Brannan said. “The American dream isn’t supposed to be this nightmare. We must find those responsible for this brutal attack and send a clear message that hate has no home here. And when you come for one of us, you come for all of us.”

brannan at hate crime press conference
Brannan called the store owner a friend of the community and emphasized the importance of bodegas. Photo courtesy of Council Member Justin Brannan

Ari Kagan, council man for district 47, also condemned the attack, calling it terrible and senseless.

“Coney Island is a beautiful, inspiring, diverse, amazing community that does not stand for hate.  What happened to Jamal is absolutely outrageous,” Kagan told Brooklyn Paper. 

Kagan met with the shop owner at the press conference on Monday April 17.
Kagan met with the shop owner at the press conference on Monday April 17. Photo courtesy of Ari Kagan

Medical personnel transported Sawaid to NYU Langone Hospital where he was treated for his injuries. He has been released from the hospital and his Coney Island shop was back open for business on Monday morning. 

Mohamed says though Sawaid is healing physically, it may take a moment to recover from this assault emotionally. 

The group of individuals fled in a white pickup truck in an unknown direction. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is currently investigating the incident.

Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or on Twitter.

Update (Apr. 19 1:39 p.m.): This story has been updated to allow comment from Council Member Ari Kagan.