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Students Say Beating Was a Hate Crime

June 20, 1993|JEFF KRAMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PLAYA DEL REY — Four architecture students injured in a melee that started in a restaurant in Playa Del Rey are claiming that they were victims of a hate crime.

But Los Angeles Police Lt. Otis Dobine, commander of detectives at the Pacific Division, said last week that initial police reports gave no indication of a racial motive for the attack on the students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles.

"This is what we describe in the police vernacular as a donnybrook," he said. "One side gets their head brought to them and they call the police."

He noted that the student group consisted of two Anglos, a black and Asian, while a Latino and three Anglos composed the other foursome.

"Just that alone would indicate it was not a racial incident," he said. The case is still under investigation.

The incident, which occurred about 10 p.m. June 11, began in The Shack, a popular beer-and-burger restaurant, when student Frank Shao got into an argument over locking the door to the men's room, said Marc Wallace, 26.

Tempers flared and cooled and flared again as the two groups continued drinking, he said. When Shao left to go to his car, his friends followed to make sure he was not attacked, Wallace said. Shao drove off, but it was then that his friends were surprised by the other group.

Wallace, who is black, said that one of the group targeted him. "Basically he said, 'We're going to get you, (racial epithet), we're going to get your (racial epithet) friend. . . .' They kept beating me till I guess I was knocked out."

Wallace suffered a broken nose, a concussion cuts and bruises.

Also injured was Carl Chen, 23, who is Chinese, and William Osborne, an Anglo. A fourth student, Michael Farr, 24, also an Anglo, suffered minor scrapes and did not require treatment.

The students said seven patrol cars from the Pacific Division responded, but instead of immediately trying to find the attackers, the police acted as if the students themselves were at fault.

Farr said he was repeatedly asked to show his identification and that one of the students' girlfriends was handcuffed after she pressed the police to pursue the attackers.

Exhibiting cuts, black eyes and other evidence of the assault, Farr, Chen and Osborne appeared at a meeting at the institute Wednesday to discuss the incident and plot their response, which was expected to include a protest march, a letter-writing campaign to police and perhaps a boycott of the bar. Wallace, who was the most seriously injured, returned to school Thursday.

The meeting drew about 75 of the school's 450 students, as well as the institute's director, Michael Rotondi, who condemned the attack.

"It doesn't matter that no one was killed and there weren't any guns involved," he said. "We find this absolutely repugnant and immoral."

He added, "It's crazy. You can't go into Playa Del Rey for a beer and a hamburger without worrying that you're going to get your nose kicked into your brain."

The students also criticized the management of The Shack, a watering hole frequented by students from the school, which is known informally as "SCI-ARC."

But Mark Hoyt, a manager at the restaurant, said the incident was being blown out of proportion.

"Some guys exchanged words in a bathroom," he said. "From there, the rest of the problem was theirs. It happened in a park about a block away."

Times staff writer Mathis Chazanov contributed to this story.

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