GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Grand Island man has been charged with a hate crime after authorities say he attacked a woman with a pool cue.
Members of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office responded to San-Dees Pub on Grand Island on March 19. It was around 4 a.m. when they arrived at the Ferry Road bar.
Deputies spoke with five witnesses and the victim, resulting in the arrest of 46-year-old Charles Vacanti. He was charged with assault with intent to cause injury with a weapon as a hate crime, as well as criminal possession of a weapon with intent to use.
The Sheriff’s Office says “race was the determining factor” in this incident. Vacanti made racial slurs toward an Asian woman, before hitting her in the head, causing her to suffer a concussion and bruising, authorities said.
“You can imagine a 5 foot 7, 270-pound defendant striking a 5-foot woman in the head with a pool stick in the head concussed, I’m not sure if she required stitches, but severe enough to charge a felony,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia.
Garcia says that the two did not know each other and that alcohol was likely a factor. The victim, who is from the Town of Tonawanda, had to receive stitches for a cut to her lip. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office also says she suffered swelling to her nose and mouth.
Garcia would not comment on whether there is surveillance video of the incident.
Following his Thursday arraignment in Grand Island Town Court, Vacanti was released on his own recognizance. He’ll be back in court on May 4.
A temporary order of protection has been issued on behalf of the victim, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said.
There’s been an alarming rise in hate crimes against the Asian American community amid the pandemic. Governor Kathy Hochul’s office says the number of hate crimes against the Asian American community has gone up 150 percent from 2019 to 2020 in top American cities. There’s a Stop Asian Hate website where people can report a hate crime by sending a text or filing a complaint online.
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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.