Three Men Face Hate-Crime Charge

Gay BashingRIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA – Three men police suspect of being gang members are facing hate-crime charges in the beating of patrons of The Menagerie — a downtown gay bar — and throwing bricks through the door, police said.
Juan Anthony Mauricio, 20, Sergio Roberto Rodriguez, 18, and Gerald Abraham Gallo, 18, all of Riverside, pleaded not guilty Thursday to three counts each of assault and committing a hate crime, court records show.
Witnesses reported three men walked up to the bar at 3581 University Ave. around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and began making anti-gay comments about people standing outside, said Riverside police Lt. Chuck Griffitts.
“It appears they went downtown looking for trouble,” Griffitts said.
The people took cover inside the bar and the men threw two bricks and a rock, shattering a window in the front door, Griffitts said. At that point, some bar patrons went outside to confront the men, who continued to make derogatory remarks about the bar patrons’ sexual orientation, Griffitts said.
Then — witness accounts vary — either the patrons tried to grab the men in order to hold them until police arrived or patrons yelled back at them and the men attacked, Griffitts said. Either way, the men began throwing punches and three bar patrons were injured, Griffitts said.
Gallo surrendered to police at the scene, Griffitts said, and officers chased down Mauricio and Rodriguez.
“This is not a common event and it’s something that is not tolerated in the least bit,” Griffitts said.
Although police respond to the occasional bar fight on that stretch of University Avenue, where there are several bars, Griffitts said, “Anything of this caliber we haven’t had for quite a while.”
He added, “The Menagerie, of all the bars, is usually one of the quietest.”
A report released this month by the state attorney general’s office showed that while reported hate crimes have been on a decade-long downward trend in California, they have increased in Riverside County.
Sexual orientation has consistently been the second-most common motivation for hate crime, behind race and ethnicity, the report said. Statewide, there were 255 hate crimes in 2005 based on bias against sexual orientation.
Jeffery Owens, 40, a gay man from Moreno Valley, died in June 2002 after being stabbed and beaten outside The Menagerie.
Owens’ death prompted an outcry from community activists who believed the attack was a hate crime.
Three gang members were convicted on several charges related to the attack, but a judge dismissed the hate-crime charge saying there was insufficient evidence.
from The Press-Enterprise

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