In what may be determined to have been a hate crime, a Santa Rosa man was brutally attacked by at least three men in their 20s or 30s early New Yearâs Day after leaving the R3 Hotel. The victim, who still fearing for his safety prefers to remain anonymous, was alone while attempting to walk the short distance from the popular gay resort to the West Sonoma Inn where he was sharing a room with a friend. One of the men positioned himself to block the victim while he walked on the sidewalk that runs along Fourth Street and refused to allow the victim to pass. When the victim told the man in his way to allow him to pass, he was then struck from behind by the one of the other men and found himself on the ground being repeated punched and kicked for several minutes. After the victim managed to get to his feet he ran back to the R3 Hotel where one of the bartenders working there phoned 911.
A Sonoma County Sheriff and EMTs from the Guerneville Fire Department arrived at the R3 shortly after 2 a.m. The victim told the sheriff about the attack after which they asked him many questions including whether the assailants used any homophobic slurs before, during or after the assault. The victim told the sheriff that he could not recall any such slurs. The victim was taken to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa where his wounds were tended to and he underwent a CAT scan to make certain his head injuries did not include a concussion or other brain damage. Six hours later, the victim underwent a second CAT scan and was finally released shortly after noon. He sustained multiple wounds to his face and head, multiple bruises to his arms, back, and legs. The victim has multiple fractures around his eyes.
The victimâs eyes were swollen shut for longer then two days after the attack and was as told by his doctor to expect bloody noses for 3 – 4 weeks. He wasnât able to return to work for several days. A few days after the attack and after discussing what happened to him with friends, he decided to turn to social media to tell his story. Despite the both physical and psychological trauma the victim still experiences, he feels compelled to share his story so others are aware of the threat of violence LGBT folks still face in what most assume is the safe haven of the Russian River area. It was only a matter of hours until he learned of a similar attack involving another gay man leaving the Rainbow Cattle Company, another bar in Guerneville.
The victim said: ãThere is no doubt in my mind that this was a hate crime. I was attacked on a deserted street after leaving a gay bar. A group of my friends who were staying in the same hotel I was booked in had left the R3 and walked the same way I was walking not 10 minutes later. I was not involved in any altercation with anyone during the two days I was in Guerneville. In fact it was my birthday and I was having a great time with friends up until the assault. The brutal manner in which I was assaulted could happen for no other reason than homophobia. I think gay-owned businesses in Guerneville need to make more of an effort to ensure the safety of their patrons.ä
The victim has still not heard back from the Sonoma County Sheriff concerning the progress being made in the case, but he says that he will urge the department to continue their pursuit of the assailants.
Lieutenant Glen Lawrence of the Sonoma County Sheriffâs Department stated that arrests are unlikely because the victim was not able to provide enough information about his attackers and there were no witnesses or surveillance video. He said that it was a very busy night in Guerneville and the sheriffâs were responding to many calls involving altercations and other incidents. Lt. Lawrence said that the case is dead in the water unless new information about the attack becomes available. Most importantly, Lt Lawrence commented that even though the assault may have very well been a hate crime it is not being pursued as such, because of lack of evidence.
The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights will discuss the assault during its Tuesday, January 22nd meeting, which is open to the public. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and happens at 2550 Ventura Avenue in Santa Rosa. Public comment is limited to five minutes per person. The Commissionâs primary purpose is to promote better human relations among all people in the county through education, advocacy, and by initiating action that fosters the recognition of and appreciation for the diversity of our county.
Anyone with information about this assault should contact the Sonoma County Sheriffâs Department at 707.565.2511.