| Crime |

Plano Police Are Working the City's First Anti-Gay Hate Crime Case

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The Dallas Voice has been on this for a while now, but it deserves a belated mention.

According to the Plano Police Department, two women were holding hands as they walked with an teenage friend through the parking lot of the Plano Sports Authority (a rec center) at about 2 p.m. on May 27. They were approached by two young men who began making "derogatory sexually-oriented comments," says Plano PD spokesman David Tilley.

When their friend stepped forward and objected, he was kicked and beaten with a handgun. He was taken to the hospital where he received stitches.

Police, publicly at least, treated the attack as a standard aggravated assault, describing the remarks that led to the beating as "rude comments," according to the Voice. But Tilley said the department treated the assault as a possible hate crime from the outset.

"Once we were able to interview the victim and witnesses and find out more as far as words that were said the way they were said," Tilley said.

Exactly what words were said, police aren't saying. Tilley says that information is part of an ongoing investigation. But they were sufficiently derogatory for police to believe that anti-gay bias motivated the beating.

Hating gay people, however reprehensible, is not itself a crime. If a jury determines, however, that your hatred of gay people drove you to commit a crime, then a harsher sentence is possible. In this case, the anti-gay charge would bump the offense of assault with a deadly weapon from a second- to a first-degree felony.

Proving intent is nebulous enough, but this case has the added wrinkle that the victim himself was not targeted because he was gay but because his friends were.

"We've been questioned about that," Tilley says. "How do you know he didn't get his beat down just because he stood up to these guys?"

You don't. But: "A hate crime it doesn't really have to have a victim. It's a bias-motivated crime."

Police are still looking for the attackers, both black men in their late teens or early 20s. One is about 5-feet-9-inches tall, 170 pounds with short, afro-style hair. The other is about 6 feet tall, 180 to 200 pounds, with a tattoo on his left forearm and brown dreadlocks with orange highlights.

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