Flag Thief Arrested: Suspect Wanted After Brutal Hate Crime in Hewlett captured

HEWLETT, Long Island (WABC) — Nassau County Police arrested a man wanted for a hate crime attack involving the theft of a pro-Israel flag from a residence in Hewlett. The suspect, identified as 26-year-old Bechir Lehbeib, allegedly stole the flag and then assaulted the homeowner when confronted. Lehbeib, an asylum seeker from North Africa, reportedly made anti-Semitic comments and gestures before attacking the homeowner.

During the incident, Lehbeib approached the home, which prominently displayed the pro-Israel flag and a “We stand with Israel” sign, and proceeded to take both items. The homeowner, Steven Drive, chased Lehbeib on foot and on a bicycle before catching up to him. Lehbeib then assaulted Drive before fleeing the scene, making threatening statements, and identifying himself as Palestinian.

According to officials, Lehbeib, an undocumented migrant from North Africa, had recently come to the U.S. and was staying in a migrant shelter on Staten Island as well as a home in Jamaica, Queens. He has been arrested and charged with robbery, assault, and criminal mischief as hate crimes.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman condemned the attack, stating that “crimes committed because of our religion, the color of our skin, the way we dress or who we love will be prosecuted vigorously.” The First Deputy Police Commissioner also detailed the injuries sustained by the victim, including contusions, swelling, and substantial head pain. Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly echoed Blakeman’s sentiments, affirming that hate crimes would be prosecuted vigorously.

The arrest of Lehbeib signifies a firm stance against hate crimes on Long Island, sending a message that such actions will not be tolerated in the community. The incident has sparked discussions about the importance of standing against hate and bigotry, creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all residents.

As the case unfolds, law enforcement and community leaders continue to work towards ensuring the safety and security of all individuals, regardless of their background, beliefs, or affiliations. This incident serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to combat hate and discrimination in all forms, promoting mutual respect and understanding.