LONG BEACH, Calif. — Police in Long Beach are investigating a rash of anti-gay assaults in the city’s LGBTQ neighborhood enclave known as “the Broadway Corridor,” according to Long Beach police officials.
Police spokesman Rico Fernandez told the Los Angeles Times that the city’s police are beefing up patrols in the neighborhood.
“We do have an obligation to protect everybody’s rights and make sure everybody has the freedom to go about their business and be whoever they want to be,” said Fernandez.
“We don’t believe any of these three are connected in any way,” he added. “We just think it’s a coincidence that three incidents happened relatively close to each other.”
In the first incident, Martin Daniel Sanchez from Ontario, Calif., was visiting with Long Beach resident Eric Avila and other friends the weekend of July 24.
That day they all went to The Falcon, a bar located at 1435 E. Broadway, for some drinks, Avila told a reporter for a local Long Beach community newspaper which first reported the story:
“As we were leaving the bar, there was this guy who appeared to be fighting with his girlfriend,” Avila said.
He said that he heard the man use a gay slur, and became a little worried about his friends as they passed by — especially as the man’s attention turned to them.
“Sure enough, as my friends are walking past, he goes to everybody, ‘Are you guys gay?’” Avila said.
When Sanchez replied in the affirmative, the man punched him in the face, Avila said, dropping the young man to the ground.
“I dialed 9-1-1 right away, but the guy started running away,” he said, noting that he and others went after the man. “It felt like we were in a movie just running through the neighborhood yelling at him to stop.”
LBPD responded to Avila’s call, which came in at 5:30 p.m., said Nancy Pratt, LBPD public information officer.
Police arrested 22-year-old Jorge Ibarrias of Torrance. He has been charged with felony battery with a hate crime enhancement, and remains in custody.
Sanchez was taken to a local hospital and then referred to a dentist — but work could not be completed for several days because of all the swelling on his face. Sanchez was missing three teeth and several others were cracked. The costs of medical and dental repairs will be as much as $5,000 — Sanchez’s insurance only would cover $1,200. Avila said that he and others will be hosting a fundraiser which will include entertainment and a raffle drawing at the Falcon at 3 p.m on August 14 to help raise the necessary funds.
“Hate is not the way to go,” he said. “I would like to send a counter message, for us as community members and leaders to rise above such senseless acts such as this.”
The Los Angeles Times also reported:
Three days later, near East 4th Street and Orange Avenue, another man was beaten and called slurs. That case is being investigated as a battery and a possible hate incident, though not a hate crime, Fernandez said. The difference, he said, is that police do not believe that hatred specifically against gays was the initial motivation.
Four days after the second attack, on Sunday, about 1:30 a.m., several men walking on Broadway, two blocks from the site of the initial incident, were approached by another group that used slurs against them, police said. A fight broke out before the groups separated. But the group that made the insults returned shortly afterward with several other people and assaulted three of the men who had been walking down the street, police said.
Long Beach City Councilman, Dr. Robert Garcia, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee, has scheduled a community rally for 6 p.m. Thursday, at Hot Java on the corner of Broadway and Junipero to show support for the LGBT community.
“Now is the time for all Long Beach residents to come together and show our unity, strength and love,” Garcia said. “These incidents have no place in our city,” he said.