A fourth suspect has been arrested in connection with a brutal assault outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7, which the victim’s family members claim was a hate crime.
Manny Portillo, 19, was served with a warrant in the El Paso case while in custody on unrelated charges in Las Cruces, N.M. Portillo now awaits extradition back to Texas.
The other three men who’ve been arrested in the El Paso case are a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition. A total of six suspects punched, kicked and beat Martinez with a baseball bat while he was waiting for a ride outside the Old Plantation. Martinez’s sister, who witnessed the crime, has said that although her brother is not gay, she believes it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs.
El Paso police say the attack was gang-related and they aren’t treating it as a hate crime. However, the FBI is investigating the incident as a civil rights violation.
It’ s difficult to ignore the connection between this brutal crime and the ballot measure to repeal domestic partner benefits for El Paso city employees, which was upheld by a federal judge last week. For one thing, both cases serve to make El Paso look like an unwelcoming place for LGBT people — especially given allegations from LGBT advocates that police haven’t done enough to address violence in the area of the Old Plantation.
Beyond that, though, the ballot measure to repeal DP benefits effectively legitimizes anti-gay hatred and sends a dangerous message to all of society. The blood is on the hands of the bigots who were behind this initiative.
An anti-hate rally is scheduled for 11 this morning in front of the El Paso County Courthouse.