2016-01-13 / Front Page

Florida Man Charged With Hate Crime In Astoria Assault

By Liz Goff
A 55-year-old Florida man charged with attacking an Astoria storeowner on December 10 after shouting, “I kill Muslims,” was arraigned on hate crime charges on January 4.

Prosecutors said Piro Kobrani, of Jacksonville, Fla., was initially arrested on a minor assault charge after he broke into a rage and repeatedly beat storeowner Sarker Haque inside the Fatima Food Market on 21st Avenue in Astoria, police said.

Detectives at the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit have since established the attack as a bias crime, police officials said.

Prosecutors said Kobrani entered the store on December 6 and “browsed” through the aisles for a few moments, before he approached Haque, who was working behind a counter at the front of the store.

Kobrani  walked up to Haque and asked, ‘Is everything free?’ prosecutors said. Haque replied, ‘What are you talking about? This is a store, nothing is free.”

Haque, 52, told police Haque then picked up a newspaper with a front page headline about the San Bernardino terror attacks and suddenly turned on him. “He punched me in the head and said, ‘I kill Muslims,’ Haque said. “He knocked me to the floor and I hit my head.” Haque told police Kobrani attacked him again as he got to his feet and tried to call 911.

A customer in the rear of the store suddenly realized what was happening and intervened, tackling Kobrani and holding him until police arrived at the scene, an NYPD source said.

Haque, who opened the store in 1999, said he is very grateful to his customers and neighbors in Astoria for their “kind gestures and support.”

“I have been in this country since I was 21-years-old,” Haque said. “My children were born here. This is my country.”

Kobrani was charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime and three other charges at his arraignment on January 4 at Queens Criminal Court, where he was released without bail.

If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

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