Yosef Aranbayev, also known as Joe Avianne of the Avianne & Co jewelry shop, has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime and additional charges after firing a weapon at a car he was following.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the charges on Monday, asserting that the incident "could have ended with someone being killed." Among Joe's charges are attempted assault in the first-degree as a hate crime, attempted murder in the second-degree as a hate crime, reckless endangerment in the first-degree as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, reckless driving, and avoiding intersection or traffic control device.
Katz said that, on June 6, a cop vehicle stopped by a traffic light saw a black Chevy Tahoe "speeding toward him on the wrong side of the road." The driver of that vehicle pulled beside the cop car, telling officers that someone was following them, at which point the driver noted the presence of a black Dodge Durango. The driver also said the driver of the Durango had shot at him. Per police, the driver of the Durango—Joe—was seen pulling into a gas station to avoid a light. The Durango was pulled over by police shortly after.
"Those guys were in my neighborhood," he is said to have told officers at the time. "I'm sorry, officer. I didn't do anything wrong. They were scouting my whole neighborhood the whole day … I was chasing those guys. We're chasing them out of our neighborhood."
In a press release, Katz referred to Joe as a "vigilante" who will be held accountable for these alleged actions.
"The defendant is accused of being a vigilante hell-bent on clearing his neighborhood of the two black men who drove through," Katz said.
Per the New York Daily News, Joe's attorney Gregory Bitterman believes the hate crime charges were added as part of an effort to gain news attention. According to Bitterman, what occurred on June 6 "had nothing to do with racism or hate." A woman quoted in that report as the wife of Joe's brother expressed a similar sentiment, saying the allegations are "just nonsense."
Last year, Avianne & Co—as recounted in this New York Times report—was robbed by three armed men in disguises who "hogtied employees" and left with high-value pieces.
The Avianne team, of course, is also known for having been instrumental in the development process of central Uncut Gems character Howard Ratner.