Police are investigating a possible anti-gay hate crime that occurred at a popular lakeside park in Temple last week.
Adrian Lopez, 23, of Killeen, said he and two friends were visiting Temple Lake Park at Lake Belton on Wednesday when a group of teenagers assaulted them.
Lopez, who is gay, said the incident began at about sunset when a group of roughly seven teenagers, who appeared to be high school seniors, came over and struck up a conversation with him and his friends.
The teenagers were asking about their tattoos, before the conversation turned to religious beliefs and it came out that Lopez and his two friends were gay. Lopez said the teenagers started verbally “gay-bashing” them, saying things like “Y’all are going to hell” and “God doesn’t like gay people.”
Lopez and his friends got up to leave, but the group approached them again as they were walking toward their car. That’s when Lopez said one of the teenagers sucker-punched him from behind, briefly knocking him unconscious.
Lopez said he suffered a hole in his lip where his teeth cut through it, as well as multiple bruises. He was treated by paramedics at the scene, but he said one of his friends suffered more serious injuries, including a possible broken jaw, and had to go the hospital.
“I know this was an act of more than violence,” Lopez told Instant Tea on Friday. “I just feel that if they hadn’t found out that we were gay, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Sgt. Brad Hunt, a spokesman for the Temple Police Department, said in an email this morning that the incident is under investigation and is being treated as a class-A misdemeanor assault. Hunt said police were dispatched to a report of a fight at Temple Lake Park at about 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
“The victim and witnesses advise he was assaulted by a male suspect, because of the suspect’s perception of the victim’s sexual orientation,” Hunt said. “The suspect and his group had left in a vehicle prior to officers’ arrival, but were located and stopped a short time later. The identified suspect from that group is a juvenile, and his name will not be released. An offense report was generated on 6-1-11, by the responding officers, and the case is an active investigation. Classification as a ‘Hate Crime’ occurs at the prosecutorial level, as set forth in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 2.211 (Hate Crime Reporting), and Art. 42.014 (Finding that Offense was Committed Because of Bias or Prejudice).”
Hunt said he could not release any additional information about the case and he didn’t respond to further questions.