Hollywood, California – A man has been arrested in the savage beating case involving a transgender woman last month. Nicol Shakhnazayan, 21, was taken into custody by detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department and charged with felony battery of a woman. Shakhnazayan, whose arrest happened a day after Los Angeles city leaders posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the assailants in the case, is being held on $1.05 million bail, according to Gay Star News. The victim, 22-year-old transgender woman Vivian Diego, was assaulted by four men shouting transphobic and homophobic slurs. The assault took place late on the night of May 31 near a Metro stop at Hollywood and Ivar, after Ms. Diego finished her shift as a barista at Beso Restaurant. CBS Los Angeles reports that video of the attack on Ms. Diego helped in making the arrest of the first suspect. Lt. Marc Reina of the LAPD told CBS2: “One of the members of the group ran after Vivian and struck her from behind, knocking her to the ground. The remaining members of the group then joined in brutally assaulting Vivian by repeatedly kicking her, even while she lay motionless on the sidewalk.”
Ms. Diego described the horror and pain of the attack in vivid terms: “It was awful. I wouldn’t wish the pain I went through on my worst enemy.” She sustained a broken jaw, a smashed cheekbone, bruises, and two cracked ribs. Her family remains solidly in support of her, calling on the police and city officials to bring the other perpetrators of this hate crime to justice.
As she recovers, Ms. Diego, whose mouth is wired shut, communicated optimism and determination through her pain. She is proud to be a transgender woman. “I am not letting this incident, this attack stop me from living my life,” she said to CBS News. “As you can see, I’m still fabulous.”
Oshkosh, Wisconsin – Christmas morning erupted in anti-gay violence when two Oshkosh men allegedly assaulted a gay man outside a popular tavern patronized by LGBT people, calling the victim “a stupid faggot” while kicking him in the head. According to The Northwestern.com, Lyall B. Ziebell and Jason “Jake” Immel-Rhode, both 20, were charged with battery causing great bodily harm with a hate crime enhancement which will increase the penalties against the men, if found guilty. With the hate crime rider, the men could serve as much as 23 years, six months in prison and face $40,000 in fines for the crime.
The criminal complaint states that Ziebell and Immel-Rhode were walking past PJ’s Bar on Oregon Street at approximately 2:15 a.m. on December 25 when the victim offered to buy them a shot of liquor apiece if they would lend him a cigarette. The three men walked into the bar where the victim made good on his offer for the cigarette. After finishing their drinks, the three went outside the bar where the assault began almost immediately. WTAQ reports that the victim suffered a broken jaw and a brain injury from the savage attack. The criminal complaint also states that the attackers left the scene of the assault to head to Ziebell’s home, and on the way they robbed a Mexican market of cash and pre-paid cell phones. The victim has no doubt, however, that the violence used against him was a response to his being a gay man.
The Northwestern goes on to report that Ziebell admitted to police that he was “very homophobic,” and commenced his assault on the victim when he allegedly “began to hit on me”–clearly a reference to the notorious gay panic defense often invoked in gay bashing trials to suggest that the victim was to blame for the injury done him. Ziebell also said to police that he heard Immel-Rhode shout that the victim was “a stupid faggot” as he kicked him repeatedly in the head.
Court officials ordered Ziebell and Immel-Rhode bound over to Winnebago County Jail, where they are being held on a minimal bail of $3,000 apiece. They are to go to court for preliminary hearings on January 5.
American Fork, Utah – A 32-year-old gay man was attacked by slur-yelling homophobes outside the beauty salon where he is employed as a stylist. Fox 13 reports that Cameron Nelson was emptying garbage into a dumpster just after midnight on Thursday from the Metropolitan Salon when two or three attackers jumped him, beating and kicking him repeatedly while disparaging his sexual orientation. Managing to get back inside the shop, Nelson laid down and tried to nurse his wounds until a co-worker arrived a few hours later, found him “covered in blood,” and called paramedics and the police. American Forks Police Lieutenant Darren Falslev told reporters that Nelson was kicked several times. He was treated for a broken nose, abrasions, bruises, and a series of other more minor injuries. The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed another American Forks Police Officer, Sergeant Gregg Ludlow, who called the slurs hurled at Nelson “disgusting,” and that attack against him “quite repugnant.” Later news reports are saying that this assault may be investigated as an anti-gay hate crime, in view of the overtly homophobic epithets aimed at the victim. Sgt. Ludlow told Q Salt Lake, “It’s pretty early in the investigation but it’s a definite possibility that the crime could be considered a hate-related crime. The slurs were made and we promise to keep investigating until the attackers are caught. We are taking this very seriously.” Nelson is certain he was targeted because of his sexual orientation, but did not know any of his assailants. Police are searching for a white male suspect about 5′ 10″ tall with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing cutoff shorts and combat boots.
American Fork, a quintessential Utah city of just under 30,000, was best know around the nation for the filming of classic movies, such as the 1984 hit “Footloose,” starring Kevin Bacon, and its 89.9% church-going citizenry. Now, it becomes yet another Utah city experiencing a rash of anti-gay hate crimes along the Wasatch Front, a string of cities and towns in Northeast Utah where 80% of the state’s population resides. Nelson’s friends and the residents of the city are “in shock” about the attack. If the investigation confirms Nelson was bashed because of his gay identity, his case will become the third such assault on gay men in Utah in the last two weeks. Two Salt Lake City men have suffered similar attacks outside a local night club, most notably, 20-year-old Dane Hall, who was “curb checked” by his attackers on August 27, suffering a smashed cheekbone, splintered jaw, and 6 missing teeth. The American Forks Police Department say that they have not yet made a connection between the Salt Lake City attacks and the assault that targeted Nelson, but they are definitely not ruling it out.
New York City – Six teenagers have been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the fatal March attack on an 18-year-old male perceived to be gay. 365 Gay reports that the youths attacked and stomped Anthony Collao of Bethpage on Long Island to death as he was leaving a birthday party on March 15 in Woodhaven, Queens. The suspects, none of whom are older than 18, crashed the party, breaking windows, shouting “homophobic remarks,” and scrawling anti-gay slurs and epithets on the wall with a red marker. Collao and his cousin, sensing trouble, tried to leave the home, but were chased outside where the assailants threw Collao against a car, and savagely beating and stomping him until he no longer moved. His cousin screamed for them to stop, saying that Collao was not gay and had a girlfriend, but the attackers continued pressing their assault with their fists, shod feet, and a metal pipe. Collao fell into an irreversible coma and died two days later at a Jamaica hospital when life support was removed from him. Four suspects — Alex Velez, 16, of the Bronx, Christopher Lozada and Luis Tabales, both 17 and from Queens, and Nolis Ogando, 18, also from Queens – were arrested soon after the attack. A fifth suspect, Calvin Pietri, 17, of Woodhaven, who allegedly bragged about the killing on Facebook, was arrested within a day of the attack. Jonathan Echevarria, 16, of Brooklyn was also arrested and charged. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown told news reporters that each suspect has been charged with a 21-count indictment of murder as a hate crime. The charges were upgraded after new evidence in the case came to light. The suspicion that someone might be gay, or even an unsubstantiated accusation of it, as in this case, carries the potential of death. Homophobia and heterosexism are deadly to straights as well as gays. The defendants in this case could each face as much as 25 years for the crime if found guilty.