Columbia Heights Hate Crime Reported

Victim says group shouted anti-gay, anti-Hispanic slurs before attack

A Columbia Heights man is reporting that he was beaten on his doorstep after being chased by a group of men shouting anti-gay and anti-Hispanic epithets Oct. 27

The victim, who asks to go by ”Benjamin,” a pseudonym to protect his identity, says he was walking near the intersection of 16th Street and Park Road NW around 3 a.m. when he noticed a group of young black men following him. As he looked back, one of the men yelled, ”Get him!” he says.

The victim, who is Hispanic, says he attempted to escape the group by retreating into his home, running a city block toward his building. Benjamin says that as he ran, he could hear the group shouting the slurs ”faggot” and ”spic.”

”I’m short – I’m only 5’5” – and I was carrying a messenger bag, so I guess they thought I was a target,” says Benjamin.

Arriving at his apartment building, Benjamin was unable to enter quickly enough to avoid the group trailing him. As one man from the group ascended the exterior steps of the building, Benjamin pleaded with him not to hurt him and advised him that cameras record activity near the entrance. The attacker was not deterred. Benjamin says the last thing her remembers of the attack before blacking out was the man grabbing his messenger bag.

Once he came to, Benjamin called 911 and to report the crime and was advised to seek medical help. He adds that the police officers who took his initial report did not include any description of the attack as possibly motivated by race or perception of sexual orientation.

”They were just looking at me as if I had a criminal record,” says Benjamin. ”One officer even asked me if I could speak English. They never gave me my case number or anything. They never followed up with me.”

Benjamin says that the beating left him with broken teeth, a wound on his cheek requiring stitches, and a concussion.

According to an email sent to Metro Weekly by David Pérez, president of the local Latino GLBT History Project (LHP) as well as a friend and former colleague of the victim, Pérez contacted the Metropolitan Police Department’s Special Liaison Division to request someone from either the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) or the Latino Liaison Unit (LLU) investigate the attack. Pérez says an MPD officer responded, confirming that the incident report had been amended to include bias as a possible motivation for the attack.

Benjamin says that following Pérez’s efforts on his behalf, another detective from MPD, as well as GLLU officers, contacted him for more details in the case, and spoke with his building manager about securing the video surveillance.

”They were very helpful to me,” Benjamin says of the GLLU officers, adding that his bag was also returned to him after it was found and delivered to a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, with articles in the bag indicating he holds an account with the bank. In fact, nothing had been removed from the bag, nor had the assailants taken his wallet or his cellphone during the attack.

An MPD spokeswoman says that the case is under investigation and had no further information.

Benjamin, meanwhile, says he hopes that someone will be able to identify the man who assaulted him, and remains very anxious about leaving his apartment. Following the attack, he’s left only to go to work.

”I’m a little afraid to go out or even share my story,” says Benjamin. ”I mean, they know where I live.”

Anyone with information about this incident should call MPD toll-free crime tip line, 888-919-CRIME.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com