A gay couple in Staten Island received a terrifying visit from a homophobic neighbor on January 24 when the man stormed onto their property, yelled anti-LGBTQ slurs, kicked their door, and threatened to “get you wherever you go,” according to video footage obtained exclusively by Gay City News.
Joe Canale, who is a principal at the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies, said he and his partner, Raymond Gamarra, were inside their home on Willow Road in Staten Island when they were disturbed by loud noises from the neighbors’ party late in the evening on January 23. They politely asked them to keep it down, but that apparently infuriated one of the party-goers next door, Clifford Hammel, who proceeded to make multiple trips over to the gay couple’s home during the wee hours of the night, according to Canale.
Watch the footage below:
The moment when a man harassed a gay couple with anti-LGBTQ slurs, threatened them, and kicked the door of their home in Staten Island. pic.twitter.com/S58jKx0ooX
— Gay City News (@GayCityNews) January 29, 2021
“I see you, fucking faggot,” Hammel is heard saying during the course of a rambling, hate-filled rant on Canale and Gamarra’s doorstep shortly after midnight on January 24. “You little bitch. Fuck you. You fucking faggot.”
Hammel, who appeared to be inebriated, then tried to justify his language by attempting to downplay his use of homophobic slurs.
“You fucking faggot — and that’s not a homosexual. I don’t care if you suck dick.”
Hammel was accompanied by another man who barely spoke throughout the incident except to point out Canale, who was recording video footage from an upstairs window. Hammel then spotted Canale and started issuing more direct threats by pointing his finger and saying he would go after him at the school where he works and at his gym.
“Wherever you go, I will get you,” Hammel said just moments after he kicked the front door.
The couple called police, but they were told that authorities were already arriving on the scene because somebody else at the party next door had to be taken to a hospital after they passed out. However, Canale said Lieutenant Rosago and Officer Vincent of the NYPD were largely dismissive of their case after they explained what happened.
The officers were even reluctant to view the video footage, but finally agreed to see it, Canale said.
“They just told me, ‘Well, I think the person they were talking about went to the hospital, so you don’t have to worry or be afraid tonight and he won’t remember tomorrow,'” Canale told Gay City News.
However, that was when the story took an even messier and confusing turn: Canale said cops at the 121st Precinct appeared to have confused Hammel with the person who was hospitalized. Canale checked with the precinct in the days following the incident, but he said they had a different name on file when they looked back at the case.
“I said ‘what’s the name on the report?’ And they said, ‘Adam Hammel.’ You’re telling me the wrong man is on the report?”
Startled and shaken, Canale also expressed frustration in response to what he described as a clumsy and “nonchalant” response by police.
When Gay City News contacted the NYPD, Detective Annette Shelton told the newspaper that there is a complaint report on file for a harassment incident stemming from that case, but no names were disclosed.
“A 44-year-old male reported to police that when he went to his neighbor’s house to complain about noise, as a response, the 45-year-old male began to bang on his door using hate speech,” Shelton said in a written statement. “The 45-year-old highly intoxicated male was removed to Richmond University Medical Center. There was no property damage reported.”
Canale and his partner also wound up contacting Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, who told Gay City News he is vowing to look into the case.
“My office and our partners in the NYPD have zero tolerance for hate crimes, and any time a serious allegation is brought to our attention, we work in tandem to thoroughly investigate and bring about criminal charges when appropriate under the law,” McMahon told Gay City News in a written statement on January 29. “Standing against this type of language and hate is at the core of our Staten Island Hate Crimes Task Force that is composed of leaders who represent communities historically targeted and victimized by hate-based crime, including the Staten Island Pride Center. Together, we are committed to securing the right of every person to live their lives free from bias and hate on Staten Island.”
Canale and Gamarra, meanwhile, feel as if that their case has not been treated with the urgency it deserves — especially considering the way it all unfolded — but they’re not necessarily surprised.
“Staten Island is not a bastion of tolerance,” Canale said. “”There are so many things that are disturbing about this that I don’t even know where to begin.”
He added, “I understand there’s COVID, but justice delayed is justice denied as far as I’m concerned.”
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