Disturbing video of a violent hate crime in the heart of Midtown Atlanta shows an unknown suspect reportedly yelling homophobic slurs at a gay couple holding hands before the suspect assaults one of the men, sending him into oncoming traffic.
The Midtown Blue security camera footage, obtained by the GA Voice from the Atlanta Police Department, shows the suspect attacking the victim right in front of LGBT-favorite restaurant Joe’s on Juniper on the evening of March 7.
Atlanta police have yet to identify the suspect, but thanks to cell phone video taken by the victim’s boyfriend, have identified the driver of the car that the suspect was riding in.
The discovery of the videos follows a GA Voice article from Dec. 8 on the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report, which stated that about one in five hate crimes are due to anti-gay bias. While there is no hate crime law in Georgia, the APD does keep track of the incidents, of which there were 12 so far this year.
The GA Voice published details of the 12 incidents in a Dec. 10 article after reviewing the police reports. The crimes ranged from assault, to making terroristic threats to armed robbery and more. Only one arrest has been made in the 12 cases, and the APD’s LGBT liaison unit was notified in six of the incidents.
In this incident, the report states that the LGBT liaison unit was called but nobody answered, and a copy of the report was faxed to them.
‘All I know is [the victim] is in the street’
The boyfriend of the victim, who can be seen in the video getting in-between the victim and suspect, agreed to speak with the GA Voice and has requested anonymity.
The couple was leaving Campagnolo, a popular gay-owned Italian restaurant at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, and was holding hands as they set off on foot to have dessert at Cafe Intermezzo when the incident occurred at the corner of 11th Street and Juniper Street.
“As we were walking up, a car started following slowly behind us. It was a BMW honking its horn. It was just making us uncomfortable really,” the boyfriend says.
The couple ignored the honking car, but then things turned violent. The suspect jumped out of the car, called the victim a “faggot,” punched him in the back of the head and shoved him into the street.
“I didn’t know what happened at that time, all I know is [the victim] is in the street,” the boyfriend says. “It all happened so fast.”
After helping the victim out of the street, the boyfriend got in-between him and the suspect, who was still acting aggressively.
“He was yelling ‘I’m a Mexican! I’m a Mexican!’ which makes no sense. He was pumping his chest,” he says.
Standers-by started approaching and the suspect jumped back into the car and it drove off, but not before the couple got cell phone video of the suspect and the driver, although the suspect covered his face by making an obscene gesture. The couple also got the license plate of the car and called 911.
The victim’s hands were bloodied from the fall into the street, but he refused medical treatment.
‘I think they can do better than that’
Although Atlanta police have identified the driver, thanks to the video of the license plate, they have yet to identify the passenger, a fact that frustrates the couple.
“We were told they talked to the guy and they said he doesn’t know the passenger, and that he picked the guy up on one block and dropped him off on another,” the boyfriend says. “It’s crazy to me saying, ‘I don’t know the passenger in my car who beat up that guy.’ It’s just crazy, I don’t believe it.”
The couple asked the APD investigator to subpoena the driver’s phone records.
“There has to be a record of the passenger on there,” the boyfriend says. “They said that was the end of it and they couldn’t do anything else. They weren’t able to get a subpoena”
The APD would not comment on any specific questions regarding their handling of the case, saying it is open and remains under investigation.
“The suspect has not been identified at this time,” said APD spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy. “We do not know with certainty that the parties knew each other or had just met. We ask that anyone with information to please call CRIME STOPPERS Atlanta. 404-577-TIPS.”
While the boyfriend says he and the victim had put the incident behind them and hadn’t talked about it in a month before being contacted by the GA Voice, they hold out hope that the suspect is brought to justice.
“I was disappointed that the investigation ended with one conversation and that’s the best they can do. I think they can do better than that, and I would encourage them to do better than that,” he says. “I’m not laying a lot of blame on the police department but I’m also not giving them any awards.”
And while he has been back by the intersection where the attack occurred, the same can’t be said for his boyfriend.
“[The victim] won’t walk by there anymore,” he says. “It’s tough for him. It does bring back memories.”
-Appeared to be in his 20s according to the witness
-Suspect claimed to be Mexican
-Wore his right arm in a sling at the time of the attack (March 7, 2014)
-Wore a red t-shirt and Atlanta Braves baseball cap
LGBT liaison unit notified in only half of 2014 LGBT hate crimes
The GA Voice obtained a copy of the APD’s Standard Operating Procedure for the LGBT liaison unit, which states in one section, “Sworn personnel responding to a suspected bias or hate crime scene against any person of the LGBT community shall make contact with the LGBT Liaison Unit and inform them of their findings.”
However, per the police reports, the LGBT liaison unit was contacted in only half of the 12 LGBT hate crimes committed in 2014. The APD says they are working to correct this.
“Per SOP, there are several different ways that notifications can be made to the LGBT liaison unit,” Espy told the GA Voice. “In some cases, it appears the LGBT liaison unit was not notified immediately, however the reports were classified as a bias crime and was forwarded to our Homeland Security Unit so they could begin an investigation. The SOP is in the process of being updated so that liaisons are notified in all cases as soon as possible.”
The APD announced on Dec. 24 that Senior Patrol Officer Brian Sharp was being transferred off the LGBT liaison unit and will be replaced with Officer Courtney Murphy. The move was part of a much larger promotion/transfer order which will take effect Jan. 1 and involves over 70 officers, said Sgt. Greg Lyon.
Officer Murphy will join Officer Eric King, who was named to the LGBT unit in August.
A copy of the APD’s Standard Operating Procedure for the LGBT Liaison Unit is below.