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Fourth Hate Crime Probed

Assaults: A suspected anti-gay incident in West Hollywood in which a man was beaten leads to increased patrols.

September 24, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sheriff's patrols were more than doubled and rewards increased Monday after an assault on a man brought to four the number of suspected hate crimes in West Hollywood since Sept. 2.

The latest victim, a 55-year-old gay man, was in stable condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Sheriff's Capt. Linda Castro said.

The attack Sunday, in the 900 block of Palm Avenue, was near the site of two attacks early on Sept. 2: against actor Treve Broudy, who was critically injured, and against two other men. Castro said the use of similar weapons and similar descriptions of two suspects have led investigators to think the crimes may be related.

The suspects were described as black and 18 to 25 years old. One is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, the other 6 feet, 2 inches tall. In the Sept. 2 attacks, witnesses said, the assailants drove a 1987 or 1988 light brown or faded red, four-door Nissan.

On Sept. 15, a short distance away, two people were beaten by a group of more than 15 people to chants of "kill the Jews." Two men were arrested, and others are being sought; that attack is not believed related to the anti-gay crimes, Castro said.

In the Sunday morning attack, the victim was described by authorities as a visitor to West Hollywood.

"The two assailants began yelling anti-gay epithets at the victim as they hit him numerous times in the head, face and body. The victim attempted to cover his head to protect himself," according to the deputies' account.

A passing cab driver intervened, chasing the assailants until they ran out of sight, Castro said. The taxi driver then took the victim home. The victim, whom deputies declined to identify at his request, sought medical treatment 14 hours later, and hospital workers called police.

Castro said the Sheriff's Department is asking the taxi driver to come forward and assist in the investigation. She expressed appreciation for his intervention.

Late-night patrols have been increased from 12 to 30 deputies around the Sunset Strip, Castro told the West Hollywood City Council on Monday night. The area of heavily reinforced patrols is bounded by Doheny Road and La Cienega, Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards. She said in some cases, empty patrol cars have been parked in strategic spots.

In an impassioned address to the City Council, a sergeant in the West Hollywood sheriff's station, Don Mueller, said the station is devoted to the capture of the attackers.

"The ferocious relationship that used to exist between the sheriff's station and the gay community is a thing of the past," Mueller said. "There are now many gay officers in the station, including myself, and we are determined to bring these attacks to an end."

Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), who is also a former mayor of West Hollywood, announced at a news conference Monday that rewards in the anti-gay attacks are being raised to $85,000. Koretz said he hopes Gov. Gray Davis will agree to add $50,000 in state money.

Koretz said he is hopeful that "the suspects bragged about these atrocities to their friends," and that the reward money will lead someone to come forward.

The West Hollywood community is "shocked, upset, fearful and angry," Koretz said. "We need to send a message by catching the people responsible."

West Hollywood Mayor Sal Guarriello said in a telephone interview, "This is not the first time we've had hate crimes in West Hollywood." Guarriello said he is confident the Sheriff's Department will solve the crimes.

Guarriello said West Hollywood has about 36,000 residents, of whom he estimated 25% to 28% are gay.

There also was discussion Monday about holding public meetings at which representatives of the Sheriff's Department, the district attorney's office and anti-hate organizations might advise residents how to prevent attacks, or what to do if they happen.

Castro said it is vital to immediately report attacks. Confidentiality, if requested, will be respected, she said.

"The latest victim may have hesitated to come forward because he was afraid of being identified," Castro said.

Also at the Koretz news conference was Roger Coggan, director of legal services and public policy for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, who said crimes can be reported anonymously to a hate crime hotline the center has established. The toll free number is (800) 373-2227, Coggan said. The center immediately notifies law enforcement officials when it is appropriate.

Anyone with information about the incidents can call Mueller or Det. John Kniest of the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station at (310) 855-8850.

Later in the day, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), reiterated, "I think it's critical for victims and witnesses to report these incidents as quickly as possible."

"These predatory hatemongers count on silence to protect them, just as rapists used to, and we must respond as a community," she said.

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