Police said they were searching for this man, identified as Keith Phoenix, who was caught on video as he paid a toll on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.
Twenty minutes earlier, Phoenix is said to have fatally beaten Jose Sucuzhanay, an immigrant from Ecuador, with a baseball bat in December in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.
Another man, Hakim Scott, is being charged in the killing also and is in custody. Scott is said to have hit Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle.
Phoenix and Scott allegedly shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs at Sucuzhanay and his brother, because they were walking arm in arm. (It was a very cold morning and the brothers had been hanging out together.)
If all this is true, and that man laughing in the photo did, just minutes before, beat a harmless man to death, depravity just found a new low.
(NBC posted video of the man said to be Phoenix smiling as he paid his toll. Click here.)
The term 'New Brooklyn' is being used quite a bit these days, a reflection of the powerful real estate forces transforming the borough.
There are good things about gentrification. It revitalizes communities suffering from disinvestment and it adds a stability to neighborhoods suffering high levels of crime.
But there is a very painful flip side to gentrification. In this borough of Kings, it has meant the welcoming of new princes even as it turns countless native old-timers into paupers.
This social phenomenon is not in and of itself evidence of crime; but the realities of today's real estate market in Brooklyn, with all the pain it is inflicting on those down the economic ladder, were foreshadowed by an unchecked explosion of predatory lending back in the 1990s and early years of this century; and along the way there were committed many more crimes than were ever punished or prosecuted.
Let's say it loud: Predatory lenders are some of the most heartless,
and in their own way, violent human beings out there interacting
with other human beings. We have met women who've said they were strong-armed by contractors into signing for
work they did not need on their homes, and then into taking out exorbitant loans to pay for the work they did not need.
Those who are aware of these crimes also know that predatory lending has to be an issue next year in the next race for Brooklyn District Attorney. Voters and those not yet eligible to vote will have to press candidates on what they have done and what they will do to protect the most vulnerable in our cut-throat economy.
The sad truth is that law enforcement officials have done relatively little to deter predatory lending criminals, little to make examples of them as they committed egregious crimes in Brooklyn and sections of Queens and the Bronx, victimizing countless senior citizens, often black women living alone.
Many victims lost their homes, and we are convinced that some died premature deaths from the incredible stress they were made to live under.
And of those who were responsible for that suffering, you will not find many -- maybe none -- in our jails.
To the contrary, some of them even strolled into a kind of respectability.
For example, a short while back, one of the worst lenders of the preying variety was Delta Funding. Often using tough and conscienceless contractors as intermediaries, Delta bilked many New Yorkers out of their homes and into the poor house. And then, when the heat turned up a bit on Delta, with a couple of negative news articles and a little noise-making by a couple of state legislators, the company got PR religion and was rescued from any serious punishment or even castigation.
Among those who helped Delta along the way into its newfound respectability was ex-Mayor David Dinkins' former chief of staff, Bill Lynch.
All of this reflection comes to mind following a recent invitation from Brooklyn D.A. Charles Joe Hynes, extended to some Brooklyn bloggers. His publicist stated clearly that Hynes did not want to discuss the upcoming election.
But it did seem that the election had to be on his mind, given that the last two of them, in 2001 and 2005, yielded up competition that was stronger than many had anticipated.
In a web search, we noted an interesting 2005 article in StayFree magazine. In it then-candidate Mark Peters, formerly of the State Attorney General's office, which under ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer did in fact put pressure on some predatory lenders, strongly criticized Hynes for not doing enough about this crime that is really an economic mugging and, in some cases, arguably, like murder.
"Brooklyn has become a real epicenter for predatory lending. We're talking millions and millions of dollars a year," Peters said.
"That's a fraud that needs to be prosecuted criminally by the D.A."
The conversation between bloggers and D.A. Hynes last week touched on predatory lending, and Hynes expressed his determination to do more about it, but no data were offered showing the extent of the crime or the prosecution of it.
As the evening drew to a close, Hynes went off to a community meeting convened by Congressman Edolphus Towns.