Dozens of somber Santa Barbara residents, community leaders, and members of the LBGT community took to the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to denounce the hate crime assault committed on two gay men New Year’s Eve. “We are not afraid, and we stand by the victims,” said David Selberg, executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation. “Santa Barbara is no place for hate.”
The unidentified victims had left a downtown bar at around 1:45 a.m. and were walking toward their car near the corner of Ortega and Chapala streets when they were approached by three men, described by police as white, in their twenties, with shaved heads and dark clothing. The suspects reportedly shouted bigoted slurs and proceeded to attack the victims. One of the victims suffered a broken jaw and a severe head laceration that required staples to close. The other escaped with only minor injuries.
The authorities have so far released little information on the incident other than a short phone video taken by a witness on the scene that shows the three suspects punching and jostling a lone victim in front of Romanti Ezer restaurant. A taxi cab drives slowly through the intersection, but no other people appear in the frame.
Police are asking the public to call with information that may help the investigation, but are otherwise staying tight-lipped on what the department knows at this point. During Wednesday’s press conference, Assistant Police Chief Frank Mannix noted that detectives are sifting through cab permitting records to determine who may have been driving the car.
Mannix went on to say there is no indication the victims did anything to prompt the attack, explaining, “They weren’t assaulted because they’d done anything wrong. They were assaulted because of who they were.”
Mayor Helene Schneider promised that city officials are doing everything they can to prosecute the crime. She thanked Selberg for organizing a formal response so quickly. Shortly after, the crowd quietly marched past De la Guerra Plaza and across State Street — passing gay pride flags coincidently hanging on downtown light posts this week — before stopping for a moment of silence at the site of the assault.