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Marines arrested in beating of man outside gay bar

Four Marines based at Camp Pendleton are accused of assault and hate crimes in the early morning attack on a film student in Long Beach.

September 05, 2012|By Andrew Blankstein and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
  • The Silver Fox bar in Long Beach.
The Silver Fox bar in Long Beach. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

Four U.S. Marines face possible assault and hate crime charges in connection with the Labor Day weekend beating of a man outside a gay bar in Long Beach, authorities said Wednesday.

Lance Cpl. Lewis Serna, Lance Cpl. John O'Leary, Pfc. Thomas Pentek and Pfc. Sean Miller were arrested Monday morning in connection with the beating of a film student from San Dimas.

The attack was preceded by anti-gay slurs and took place about 1:30 a.m. at the Silver Fox Bar near 4th Street and Redondo Avenue, according to authorities.

Long Beach police, who may present the case to prosecutors this week, are still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses to try to determine how the incident unfolded, Sgt. Aaron Eaton said.

Daniel Nunciato, 22, said he was leaving work and was walking toward the Silver Fox about 2 a.m. Monday when the melee broke out in front of the bar and spilled into the middle of Redondo Avenue.

"At one point I saw at least 12 dudes over there," Nunciato said. "Some of them were swinging and some of them were trying to pull the other guys off."

At least one employee from the bar was struck in the chin while trying to intervene, Nunciato said.

Eventually, the fight moved around the corner from the bar on 4th Street, in front of a coin laundry, where a man wearing a blue football jersey started to choke a man on the ground, according to Nunciato. He said he also heard the man yelling anti-gay remarks.

"He was choking him out on the ground, screaming ... 'You want to die?' " Nunciato said. "They were just stomping him there."

The Marine Corps is cooperating with local law enforcement in the investigation, military spokesman Maj. Manuel Delarosa said. The Marines will be conducting their own review, he said, "to ensure we have a full understanding of this incident."

"This is behavior that's not acceptable in the Marine Corps," Delarosa said. "Any crimes of intolerance are unacceptable."

The four Camp Pendleton-based Marines are free on bail and have returned to their units.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Ben Vargas of the Long Beach Police Department's Violent Crimes Detail at (562) 570-7250.

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