Mark Carson did not hide that he was gay, and when he went out on the town he would often head to Greenwich Village, where much of the struggle for gay liberation unfolded, years before he was born.
Yet late Friday night, just blocks from the Stonewall Inn, among the most important landmarks of that struggle, he was confronted with a man screaming antigay slurs, who then stalked him before pulling out a silver revolver and fatally shooting him, the police said.
On Sunday, the suspect, identified as Elliot Morales, 33, was charged with murder, an act qualified as a hate crime. He was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and was ordered to be held without bail.
At a news conference on Saturday, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described a chaotic scene that involved a man seemingly out looking for trouble when he crossed paths with Mr. Carson and ended up shooting him in the face. The violence was quickly followed by a police chase and an arrest on the corner of West Third and Macdougal Streets as scores of bar hoppers looked on in shock.
“This clearly looks to be a hate crime,” Mr. Kelly said, noting that there had been a rise in bias-related crimes in New York City this year — 22 compared with 13 during the same period last year. In just the past three weeks, there have been five attacks directed at gay men, including a vicious assault on a gay couple outside Madison Square Garden on May 5.
Timothy Lunceford, 56, who has lived in the West Village for 35 years, said he believed the killing was a brazen display of a kind of intolerance he had not known in New York for decades. “It’s outrageous,” he said. “They say we’ve worked through homophobia, but it’s not gone away. It’s just not usually as out there in the open like it was this morning.”
Mr. Carson, who was 32, had recently moved to Brooklyn from Harlem after scrimping and saving money from his job at a yogurt shop in Midtown, according to Kay Allen, a friend for more than a decade.
“He was a proud gay man,” Ms. Allen said. “A fabulous gay man.” She noted that he loved going to the Village.
“His spirit was too big for this city,” she said. “He didn’t have a negative bone in his body.”
Elected officials and other civic leaders were quick to condemn the killing.
“There was a time in New York City when two people of the same gender could not walk down the street arm-in-arm without fear of violence and harassment,” said Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, whose district includes the Village and who hopes to become the city’s first openly gay mayor. “We refuse to go back to that time.”
According to Mr. Kelly, the gunman was in the neighborhood with two other men shortly before midnight when he urinated in front of the Annisa bar and restaurant on Barrow Street at West Fourth Street.
The man then went inside and angrily confronted the bartender with antigay slurs, the police said, pulling up his gray hooded sweatshirt, and revealing a silver revolver in a shoulder holster. He threatened the bartender that if he called the police, he would be killed, the police said.
The man and two companions then headed south on the Avenue of the Americas and ran into Mr. Carson and another man at West Eighth Street, the police said. A confrontation ensued.
“There were no words that would aggravate the situation spoken by the victims here,” Mr. Kelly said. According to the police, the gunman once again used antigay slurs, and at one point asked, “What are you, a gay wrestler?”
Raquan Johnson, 22, was in a pizza shop on the Avenue of the Americas and watched as the argument escalated.
He said that Mr. Carson’s friend shouted back at the gunman: “Oh yeah? Well, what do you look like?”
After a few minutes, Mr. Carson and his friend continued on their way, assuming the exchange was over. The two men walked along West Eighth Street, but the gunman apparently did not want to let the matter drop. One of the gunman’s companions tried to talk him out of following Mr. Carson, according to the police. That companion left, the police said.
The gunman caught up with Mr. Carson outside of a building at 60 West Eighth Street, and began shouting at him. “Do you want to die here?” he asked Mr. Carson, according to Mr. Kelly, before pulling out the revolver and shooting Mr. Carson once in the cheek.
“I didn’t think nothing of it, it was just an argument,” Mr. Johnson said. “Then a minute later I hear boom! I ran to the corner and I see him lying there dead.”
Mr. Carson was taken to Beth Israel Medical Center and pronounced dead on arrival.
After shooting Mr. Carson, the gunman fled, trying to disappear in the crowds that filled the streets. A police cruiser on a nearby corner took off in pursuit and a call went out over the police radio describing the gunman.
Police Officer Henry Huot, who was on foot patrol, chased Mr. Morales and arrested him. Mr. Morales was carrying a silver Taurus .38-caliber, six-shot revolver that was used in the killing, the police said.
Gary Rookard, 54, a shop clerk on West Third Street near Macdougal, said the streets were flooded with uniformed officers.
“It was pretty hairy,” he said. “The cops were all bunched up and they were running, and there were a lot of people looking. There was a lot of confusion.”
Mr. Rookard said that despite the neighborhood’s hefty real estate prices and fancy boutiques, a rough element still descends on the weekends.
“We get a lot of fistfights, we get brawls in the street,” he said. “But hardly ever shootings.”
Mr. Morales, whose last known address was on Avenue D in the East Village, served more than 10 years in prison for robbery, according to state correction records.
He was carrying a fake ID at the time of his arrest and for hours refused to answer any questions. He was finally identified through facial recognition technology, the police said.
On Avenue D on Saturday night, Edith Gutierrez, Mr. Morales’s sister, said she had not seen him for months but she thought he had “accepted his time and moved on.”
Ms. Gutierrez said she found it difficult to believe that her brother would kill anyone. “He’s a good kid,” she said, adding: “We’re not prejudiced.”
A few hours earlier, relatives and friends of Mr. Carson gathered at his mother’s Harlem apartment, saying they wished to mourn in private.
At an improvised sidewalk memorial at the scene of the shooting, Takis Kouvatseas, 47, lit two white candles behind a bouquet of lilacs. “Somebody took his life because he’s himself,” he said.
Michael Schwirtz, Colin Moynihan and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.