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Suspect in NYC bias shooting appears in court, charged with murder as a hate crime

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - The man who police say hurled homophobic slurs at a gay man on a Manhattan street before firing a single fatal shot to his head appeared in court Sunday to face a charge of murder as a hate crime.

Elliot Morales, who appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court, is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, according to the complaint filed Sunday by the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Authorities said the Greenwich Village resident used a silver revolver to kill 32-year-old Mark Carson early Saturday as he walked with a companion in Morales' neighbourhood.

Morales was ordered held without bail pending another court appearance on Thursday. His attorney, Reginald Sharpe, could not be reached for comment.

On Saturday, seconds before opening fire in the lively Village streets just after midnight, police say Morales followed Carson and a companion through the Village, asking if they "want to die here," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Police said Morales then yelled anti-gay slurs before shooting Carson point-blank in the face in a neighbourhood long known as a bedrock of the gay rights movement.

Morales was soon arrested a few blocks away.

He has a previous arrest for attempted murder in 1998, police said. Details of that arrest weren't immediately clear.

Saturday's shooting scene is a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to gay rights when patrons reacted to police harassment.

Saturday's violence follows a spate of recent bias attacks on gay men in New York, but this was the first deadly one. Kelly said police were looking into possible links between the incidents.

The shooting stunned a city where, in many neighbourhoods, same-sex couples now walk freely holding hands. It also comes at a time when the gay marriage movement is gaining momentum in many parts of the United States. Twelve states have legalized same-sex marriage, including New York in 2011.

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