Police in San Diego are investigating an attack in a park that left a gay man requiring surgery to his face.
Gersson Saavedra was beaten unconscious by two strangers while walking along the pier at Cesar Chavez park around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 12.
Saavedra suffered a fractured nose, shattered eye socket, and injuries to his spinal cord during the attack, which is being investigated as an anti-gay hate crime.
Speaking to NBC San Diego, Saavedra said he fell behind his friends when two men approached him and asked him for a lighter.
While Saavedra remembers little of what followed, his friends told him that the men started yelling homophobic slurs, including “faggot.”
“By the time they like turned around, I was getting, you know, punched,” he said. “I was basically hitting the floor at that point.”
Saavedra was knocked unconscious during the attack, with his attackers fleeing the scene.
“First thing I remember when I woke on the hospital bed is that one of the doctors asked me if I was gay,” Saavedra said. “I was like, that’s such a weird question to ask, but I said of course. And he was like, ‘Okay, you were a victim of a hate crime.'”
He added: “You hear about these things like happening in the gay community, but you know, you can never kind of prepare or expect something like this to happen to you.”
San Diego Police confirmed to NBC San Diego that it was investigating the attack as a hate crime and has urged anyone with information to contact police.
The attack comes amid a rise in anti-gay hate crimes in California, according to the Attorney General’s office. Hate crimes rose 31% last year, with 15% of such crimes based on sexual orientation.
Saavedra’s sister has started a GoFundMe to cover his hospital expenses, with almost $13,000 in donations as of writing. He will also be required to take at least six weeks off work while he recovers from his injuries.
In the meantime, Saavedra is trying to keep a positive mindset.
“It’s easy to kind of blame yourself, think could have prevented this, maybe by being less of yourself, but I would definitely say don’t let anyone or even this type of situation dim your light,” he said. “Always, you know, just be yourself.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!