A gay couple were brutally attacked by a gang as they left a casino, in what they believe was a homophobic hate crime.
The men say they were both left with serious injuries after the allegedly homophobic attack, which took place as they left the Ameristar Casino in St Charles, Missouri.
One of the men, who wished to remain anonymous, told local news station KSDK that he believed they were the victims of a hate crime, claiming that they were targeted and verbally abused because of their sexuality.
He explained that he was helping his boyfriend into the car after a night at the casino on Saturday (27 February). As the couple neared the garage, a group of four men made an aggressive gesture towards them.
The victim called out to the group and words were exchanged. He told KSDKthat he was called homophobic slurs and pushed one of the men. Then, things became physical.
The two men were subjected to a vicious assault, and the man said all he could think about was trying to protect his boyfriend. He said: “All I could think about was getting over to him, covering [him] as he was getting hit with punches and kicks.
“He was laying there unconscious.”
The victim said the men eventually stopped the allegedly homophobic attack and left the casino. The two men were hospitalised with nose, eye and mouth injuries. But the victim said the injuries are more than just physical.
“Just know me and him are scared to go anywhere in public,” he told KSDK.
Police don’t believe the men were victims of a homophobic hate crime
St Charles County Police told KSDK there was no evidence to support that the couple were victims of a homophobic hate crime. The police said that they talked to two men in the group of alleged assailants, and both men are cooperating with the investigation
The men told police that one man stepped out of the way to avoid bumping into the couple.
In a statement to Fox-affiliated TV station KTVI, lieutenant Tom Wilkison of the St. Charles Police Department said there remains a “dispute as to what type of language was used back and forth”. He added: “At this time, we don’t have anything to support that the two people got beaten up or targeted because of their sexual orientation.”
He said the investigation remains open, and the police are still gathering evidence to take to the country prosecutor, who will decide on charges.
But the victim told KTVI that the assault was “clearly a hate crime” because the men “saw me with my arms wrapped around him [his boyfriend] and that’s why they did that [aggressive] motion and said [an anti-gay slur]”.
He said his injuries include a fractured nose and eye-socket, which will need surgery, and his boyfriend will likely lose several teeth.
Ameristar released a statement following the incident saying it is unable to provide additional details on the matter because of the ongoing investigation. But the organisation said it has a “zero-tolerance for those who commit acts of violence or intolerance” and are working closely with law enforcement in their investigation.