Long Beach police investigate assaults on gay men
Police in Long Beach are investigating three incidents in the last two weeks in which gay men were assaulted in the city’s Broadway Corridor, a neighborhood known for its tight-knit gay and lesbian community.
The suspect in one case has been charged with a hate crime while the others are still under investigation, said police spokesman Rico Fernandez.
“We don’t believe any of these three are connected in any way,” Fernandez said. “We just think it’s a coincidence that three incidents happened relatively close to each other.”
The first incident was reported just before 6 p.m. on July 24 near a popular gay bar on Falcon Avenue and Broadway.
In that case, Fernandez said, a man allegedly approached another man on the street and asked if he was gay. When the second man said yes, he was attacked and beaten.
A suspect, Jorge Jhovanoy Ibarrias, 21, was arrested and charged with felony battery in addition to a hate crime. He has pleaded not guilty, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Three days later and just a few blocks away near East 4th Street and Orange Avenue, another man was beaten and called slurs. That case is being investigated as a battery with a possible hate incident, though not a hate crime, Fernandez said. The difference, he explained, is that police do not believe that hatred against gays was the initial motivation for the attack.
Four days after the second attack, on Sunday at about 1:30 a.m., a group of men walking on Broadway, two blocks from the site of the initial incident, was approached by another group that used derogatory slurs against them, police said. A fight broke out before the groups separated. But the group that made the insults returned shortly after with others and assaulted three of the men, police said.
That incident is still under investigation and it’s not clear whether a hate crime or hate incident would be among the charges if the suspects are arrested, Fernandez said.
While he sought to play down the notion that a rash of hate crimes had hit the community, Fernandez said police would beef 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,” he said.
In response to the reports, Long Beach City Councilman Robert Garcia and the advocacy group The Center called for a “unity gathering” Thursday near the site of the incidents.
“Hate crimes have no place in Long Beach, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that the perpetrators of these cowardly crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Garcia said in a statement.
-- Paloma Esquivel
Image: Map shows location of where a man was beaten in Long Beach. Source: Google Maps