On Wednesday, May 29, at around 9:45 p.m., five men who were visiting Seattle beat a young man bloody while yelling antigay and racist slurs, right on 10th Avenue and East Pike Street by the Comet Tavern, police say. Charging documents obtained this week by The Stranger describe details of the crime, which now has those men—all white, in their early 20s, and from out of state—facing charges of malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime charge.
"Most disturbing about it is the number of people on one person," says Mike Hogan, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney in charge of hate crime cases, when asked if there's anything notable or unusual about this case. A witness said there were "actually up to six or seven" assailants, Hogan explains, but he could only identify the five who were charged.
Hogan also pointed out something surprising about the city's most gay-friendly neighborhood: "It's common to see people not from our area... go up to the Pike/Pine district and offend there."
The group of men had been "hanging out on the street... calling people walking by derogatory hate speech names," according to records filed in King County Superior Court on June 3. "One name they repeatedly called men passing by was 'faggot.'" A witness quoted in the charging documents, a doorman at the Comet, described the crowd as "angry, pissed off," and ready to "fight with anyone they deemed a member of the offensive terms they were using."
That's when a 20-year-old black man walked past the group, when he too was called a faggot, and he "made some remarks back to the group," the records explain. As the bouncer would tell police, "When that happened, the group... began repeatedly calling [the victim] a 'faggot' and a 'nigger.'"
Then the group allegedly "swarmed" the young man. Charging papers describe one of the suspects grabbing the victim "around the neck" and "[taking] him to the ground," where they allegedly punched and kicked him. He was able to flee eventually, as the crowd "continued yelling at him, still calling him a 'faggot' and a 'nigger.'"
Police arrived, and the victim returned to the scene. "He was shaking, upset, crying and had a lot of blood bleeding from a cut on his lip," says the police record. The suspects were arrested on the scene after the bouncer identified them.
Hogan, the prosecutor, says "the thing that's nice" about this case is that the witness was "proactive, vigilant, made the identifications. We're really grateful that that happened... Somebody cared—a lot. He didn't know the victim, but he cared enough to assist the police in identifying the perpetrators."
As for picking Capitol Hill, the suspects "certainly didn't select a very hospitable neighborhood for their idea of a good time, and I'm glad of that," Hogan explains. "I don't think they really understood the dynamics of the neighborhood."
If convicted, the men face a standard sentencing range of three to nine months, depending on prior convictions, which Hogan says they're likely to actually serve. "The judges take this really seriously."