HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. - "It was a horrible thing to have to hear, and his accusations were baseless," said Haverstraw resident Collin Dunner, who was one of about 130 witnesses at a town hall meeting Wednesday night when a man who publicly identified himself as Nick Coella went on an anti-Semitic rant, all captured on video.
"Even though there are sidewalks in the neighborhood, a certain sect of people are walking in the street and nobody's wearing any reflective gear," Coella could be heard saying in the video. "So if I run one of them over and of course I'm going to back over them again."
His hateful comments stemmed from a discussion about a proposal to create a new synagogue in town.
"To me, it's not about this one person, it's about the larger concern that so many dozens of people sitting in the room were silent or laughing or applauding to outrageous generalized claims," said Yossi Gestetner, the co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.
Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips told FOX 5 NY the local police department is working with the Rockland County District Attorney's Office to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime. Phillips insists what happened in his town is not an accurate representation of the community at large.
"Haverstraw has just been a true melting pot community of all faiths, cultures, backgrounds," Phillips said. "So this is really the anomaly to occur in our community."
"It's sad that it takes a shameful event to bring a spotlight on our town when it's not reflective of who we are or what we stand for," Dunner said.
The attorney general and the governor's office both reached out to the town to show their support and say that they're appalled at what happened.