RENO, Lamar County, Texas — An openly gay Texas man was brutally attacked at a private party early Sunday, sustaining second-degree burns and severe bruises, and requiring over 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his torso, forearm, and forehead near his left eye.
In an initial report published by the Dallas Voice, Burke Burnett, 26, said he was at a private party at about 1 a.m. Sunday when four men suddenly attacked him, stabbing him at least twice with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a lit burn barrel.
According to Burnett, his assailants were yelling the epithets “pussy-ass faggot,” “gay bitch” and “cock-sucking punk,” during the attack.
“They knew I was gay,” Burnett told the Voice on Monday. “I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”
But one police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday that there are two sides to this incident, and that investigators were exploring the possibility that the attack may have been provoked, and not influenced by the victim’s sexual orientation.
The official did indicate that police investigators were aware of the identities of the four men involved and were continuing the investigation. The source did emphasize that the Reno police were taking the attack very seriously, but no decision had been made as to possible charges.
Burnett said the officer investigating the case told him the attack will be classified as a hate crime. But Burnett said his attackers, whose identities are known, remain at large, and the officer told him it could be two weeks before they’re arrested.
“I’m scared for my life,” Burnett said, adding that he’s staying with a family friend. “I’m scared to go home. These guys have nothing to lose.”
Burnett said he grew up in Paris and came out as gay when he was 15. He knows at least one of his attackers personally. Two of the suspects have been to prison and may be on parole, he said.
Burnett said he’s attended several parties at the residence and was invited by his straight friend who lives there. He arrived at the party several hours earlier with three gay friends. However, the group left after someone at the party was overheard making anti-gay remarks such as, “These faggots don’t deserve to be here. Somebody needs to get them out of there.”
Burnett said he didn’t hear the remarks and wasn’t aware of them when he returned to the party later in the evening with one of his girlfriends.
In a statement released Monday, police chief Jeffery Sugg said, “The Reno Police Department is currently investigating an aggravated assault that took place last weekend. The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be provided when available.”
Reno Mayor William Heuberger, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday that he felt that the police department would do a through and fair job of investigating the incident, and that he would abstain from comment until the police investigation was completed.
The Mayor also said that he didn’t feel that the actions of the four men were reflective of the overall values of the community nor of its citizens.