Lou Rispoli, a prominent gay activist from Queens, N.Y., was taken off life support on Thursday and was not expected to survive injuries sustained in a brutal attack over the weekend. UPDATE: The Queens Chronicle reported Friday that he died Thursday night.
A Facebook page was started in his memory after several news outlets reported he had been taken off life support Thursday.
Rispoli was struck in the head around 3 a.m. Saturday outside of 41-00 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside, according to the Sunnyside Post. A witness saw an SUV pull up with the victim and three other men, two of whom started walking with Rispoli. The witness said the group “all looked like friends.”
According to Gay City News, Rispoli was “hit in the head with a blunt object with such force that neighbors who heard the assault but did not see it thought he had been shot.”
Police are seeking surveillance video from the area, and it is not yet known whether the attack was motivated by antigay bias. Rispoli's death would make the case a homicide investigation. No suspects have been apprehended.
“It’s an open question at this point,” said Mark Horn, a longtime friend of Rispoli's. “We just don’t know why he would be targeted.”
Horn said Rispoli often walked around the neighborhood at night. He did not live in the building where the SUV pulled up.
“We suspect he was forced into the car,” said Horn. “Lou was not the kind of person to get into a car with strangers. He had no money on him. He only had his keys.”
Rispoli worked as an administrator at the Greenwich House Music School in Manhattan, according to the Associated Press. He was 62 years old.
Gay City News reported that Rispoli lived in Sunnyside for more than 30 years, where he was a well-known and liked leader of the gay community. He was among the first to cook meals and deliver them to people living with AIDS in the neighborhood, and he served as secretary to the gay composer Virgil Thompson.
Rispoli and his husband married in August 2011 on their 31st anniversary, Gay City News reported. The couple raised two daughters together.
New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the district where Rispoli lived, held a news conference Thursday afternoon. The gay lawmaker was a personal friend of the activist.
“This type of heinous attack has no place in our community,” said Van Bramer in a statement. “This incident has struck home for all of us and we need the public to come forward with any information regarding this crime. What happened to Lou should never happen to anyone. Whoever committed this horrific act of violence must be arrested and brought to justice.”
Police are urging anyone with information about the attack to call the NYPD Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.