Victim of anti-gay crime speaks out

The victim whose jaw was broken in a March 12 attack in the District that is being investigated as a possible hate crime has returned home and is in the final stages of recovery.

One week after 600-plus people tried to raise awareness of his attack and two possibly similar crimes by walking through Columbia Heights in silence, the victim and his partner of three years spoke out in a series of media interviews.

The bruises on his chest have not yet fully healed. The right side of his mouth will be wired shut for at least the next month. He is still unable to ingest anything more than protein shakes and soup broth.

“Physically, I’m about 50 percent, emotionally, I’m about the same,’’ the victim told the Post. He is not being identified to preserve his safety. “I just try not to think about the fact that the person who did this to me is still out there.”

No arrest has been reported. The victim said he is happy with the diligence with which the Metropolitan Police Department is handling the case, but is unsure whether or not they’ll be able to find suspects without more witnesses. The victim’s memory is blurry.

This is what he remembers:

The 29-year-old was on his way home from hanging out at Hank’s Oyster Bar with a friend. A cab dropped him off around 9 p.m. near Georgia Avenue and Irving Street Northwest, a few blocks away from his home. A group of people attacked him. He doesn’t remember how many - there were at least two, but probably more. He has no idea what they looked like.

He fell to the street, and faded in and out of consciousness. They kicked him and shouted racial and homophobic slurs before he got away.

“I was in flight mode at the point,’’ he recalled. “I tried to get help, but I didn’t even know where I was.”

He called his partner, who stayed home because he doesn’t like oysters, for help when he was attacked again. He doesn’t remember if it was the same group of people, but at least one of these attackers were female. They dragged him. They stole his iPad and cell phone from his messenger bag. They wrapped the bag around his neck.

By the time his partner arrived with the police, the victim’s face was covered in blood. At George Washington University Hospital, he endured two surgeries and could only eat through a feeding tube. He’s lost 15 pounds.

The incident came a day after a man was shot after getting into an argument at an International House of Pancakes restaurant a few blocks away with a group of people who allegedly voiced homophobic slurs at him. Police have arrested and charged a 27-year-old woman with aggravated assault in relation to the incident.

The following night a transgender woman in Northeast Washington was beaten unconscious. Police have not classified that attack as a bias incident. Police do not believe the incidents are related.

While the victim in the attack at Georgia and Irving was recuperating in the hospital, five of his friends began organizing a silent march. He called the sheer number of people who attended, estimated to be more than 600, “reassuring — it made me proud to be a part of this community.” A table inside his home is littered with dozens of get-well cards.

“I pulled out of this situation pretty good,’’ the victim said. “I actually think I’ve become a better person for it. We live in Washington, where it’s all about about what we’re going to do next. This has made me stop thinking about my next step and start focusing on the here and now.”

Robert Samuels writes for the Post’s social issues team. In Maryland, he focuses on issues affecting low-income children and families. He also covers life in the District.
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