Chip Perala—a military veteran, registered nurse, and ten-year resident of Capitol Hill—doesn't want to make a big deal over what happened on Friday when, he says, he was suddenly gay bashed during the middle of a sunny afternoon.
He's embarrassed about it, actually. "I always thought that if it happened to me," he said today, "I would fight back. But it happened so fast that I didn't get a chance. There have been other people hurt worse than I was."
Perala was walking home from a haircut at about 2:15 p.m. on Bellevue Avenue between Mercer and Republican. He had his headphones on. He noticed two young white men ahead of him in baseball caps, and as he walked forward, they split apart so he could walk in between them. Perala didn't think much of it and looked down at his phone.
As he passed them, he suddenly felt a shove from behind and fell to the ground. "I hit the cement really hard, face first," Perala said. He felt a kick to the ribs and heard at least one of the men yell, "Faggot!" As the two assailants ran off, he said, a man jumped out of his car to help him to his feet. He was bleeding from his lower face. The man walked him, dazed, across the street to his apartment.
"I don't know how they knew [I'm gay]," Perala said, chuckling. "I wasn't wearing pumps or anything... It just happened so fast. As I passed them, next thing I knew I was on the ground."
Perala went to the hospital, received a series of stitches, and took a cab to the East Precinct to tell the police what happened. A police report about the incident contains the same account.
"I have to commend the police department," Perala said. He said the officer who interviewed him about what happened refused to use the word "faggot," because he didn't believe in using the word. "They were really nice about it," he said, even offering him a ride back to his apartment.
Perala was happily surprised by how seriously the officers responded to the incident. About ten years ago, he said, an officer hit his car during a snowstorm and tried to pin it on him, rudely and falsely accusing him of being drunk. Perala said he took a breathalyzer and it came back negative, so the officer's accusations didn't go anywhere. He remembers filing a complaint with SPD's internal affairs division, though he said he no longer has a copy of this complaint. With that experience in mind, he said, "I've definitely noticed a difference in the officers that took this response."
In a blog post today, SPD said it is investigating this incident as well as a report it received late Sunday evening of a man who spit on a gay couple and shouted slurs. The department launched its Safe Place program, which designates certain businesses on Capitol Hill as spots one should duck into if feeling threatened on the street, last week.
"There's a lot more violence going on," said Perala. "It is getting a little different with all these new buildings coming up. You know, new people moving in and being less tolerant on the Hill... I was never worried. But now, I'm finding myself watching people as I walk."