Authorities knock on doors in search of 2 suspects who assaulted teen outside recreation center after he defended his lesbian friends

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

PLANO — Plano police are investigating the city’s first anti-gay hate crime as a “high-priority” case, knocking on doors and reaching out to the community to try to track down the two suspects.

On May 27, an 18-year-old and his two female friends were exiting the Plano Sports Authority, a public recreation center, when two black men approached them. The suspects made “derogatory sexually-oriented” comments to the females, who were holding hands, according to Plano police. When the teen stepped in to defend his two friends, the suspects kicked and beat him with a gun.

David Tilley, a spokesman for Plano police, said the teen needed stitches for cuts on his face and called police from the hospital.

The teen’s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her son’s identity, said she was worried police were not handling the assault seriously and told her not to file a report. But Tilley said police likely told her she could not file a report because her son is 18. Her son did not want to comment.

After an initial investigation, Tilley said police determined the comments made classified the case as an anti-gay hate crime. The men face a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony, so the offense would not be enhanced based on Texas’ hate crime statute.

The two men are described as 17-25 years old with medium builds. One of the men has orange highlights in his dreadlocks and a tattoo on his left forearm.

Because the men fled on foot after the attack, Tilley said police have been asking residents nearby whether they’ve seen them.

“They will stop knocking on doors when they feel like they’ve covered the entire area,” he said, adding that police will then work on tips and patrol the area. “This is a very, very high priority.”

Tilley said recent surveillance footage revealed that security cameras at the rec center were not working when the assault occurred. However, the teen said he would recognize the men if he saw them and has been shown one police lineup so far, Tilley said.

According to the FBI’s hate crimes statistics, the incident is the first reported anti-gay hate crime in Plano since at least 2005, if not ever.

Tilley, who has worked with Plano police for 15 years, said he can’t remember any anti-gay hate crimes.

“Hate crimes in general are going to be very high-priority crimes for us,” he said, adding that most hate crimes involve vandalism, not physical violence. “When you start attacking people and causing physical injury and that something that concerns us greatly.”

Anyone with information about this case can contact police at 972-424-5678, or call 972-941-2148 to make an anonymous tip.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 8, 2012.