The Rev. Louis Braxton Jr. said he was returning to the shelter, Carmen's Place, on Monday night when he saw the teens hit a center resident with a garbage can.
Braxton, the shelter's director, told the Times that he shouted at the attackers and they fled, but that four youths soon returned, wielding a paint bucket, a miter box, steel brackets and a belt.
Braxton and other witnesses said the attackers spewed obscenities and slurs. A district attorney's spokeswoman told the Times that hate-crime charges are being investigated.
"Father was trying to make peace with them, but then one of them hit him in the back of the head with a paint can," Alessandra-Michelle Carver, 21, told the New York Daily News. "He fell to the ground, and they kept hitting him."
Braxton was treated for bruises and cuts at a local hospital.
The suspects were arrested as they ran past New York transit police, the Daily News said. Police identified three suspects as Shara Mozie, 17, Tyreek Childs, 17, and Trevaughn Payne, 16. The fourth suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was not identified because he is likely to be charged as a juvenile.
The suspects face assault, weapons and harassment charges, the Times said. (The Advocate)