By COURTNEY ASTOLFI
A Norwalk man brutally beaten outside a local convenience store Monday morning said he is certain the attackers targeted him because of his sexual orientation.
“It was pretty much a hate crime,” said the victim, asking the Register not to identify him for fear of retaliation. “I was targeted because of the way I am.”
Unlike some other states, Ohio has no law making it a hate crime to target someone because of his or her sexual orientation.
Shortly before 4 a.m. Monday, two men attacked the 22-year-old victim just outside the front doors of the 7-Eleven on Camp Street.
Police later arrested Angel Kennedy, 23, of the 200 block of McDonough St., and Neno Miller, 18, of the 2200 block of Mills St., charging them with aggravated robbery, criminal trespass and obstruction. Kennedy received an additional charge of criminal damaging.
The victim said he and his friend went to the store for a late-night snack run.
Inside the store, they were confronted by two customers — later identified as Kennedy and Miller — who allegedly began calling them “faggots.”
The victim said he and his friend ignored the taunts, finished their purchase and walked out the door. But the two men followed close behind, asking the victim for a lighter. When he couldn’t provide one, his friend offered to purchase one to just be finished with the interaction.
When the victim’s friend turned to re-enter the store to buy a lighter, the men allegedly lunged at them.
“Everything happened so quick,” the victim said. “They punched me in the head so many times and kicked me in the face.”
He suffered several abrasions to the face and a cut to his chin, which later required several stitches, according to a Sandusky police report.
The assailants grabbed the victim’s wallet and then fled on foot, the report said.
Police arrived and spotted the attackers running in the 600 block of Shelby St., but officers were ultimately unable to catch them. A Shelby Street resident approached officers during the search and said he awoke to crashing noises in his yard.
The resident said one of the suspects, later identified as Kennedy, came to his bedroom window and said, “Man I’m only 16, and got jumped by 10 dudes at 7-Eleven, they were chasing me man,” the police report said.
The resident said he tried to stall the suspect, but the man fled when a police cruiser’s lights swept the property.
Police went to the emergency room and got statements from the victims. About two hours later, officers got a call from the same Shelby Street resident, who said the two suspects had just returned to his yard in search of baseball hats they lost during the chase.
Officers arrived and quickly arrested Kennedy and Miller, who witnesses identified as the alleged assailants.
The victim and his friend made it clear they believe they were targeted because they are gay. The victim said the assailants took his wallet as more of an afterthought, tossing it aside after they fled and stealing nothing.
In Ohio, hate crime laws do not include a provision protecting people based on sexual orientation, Sandusky police detectives said. Race, color, religion and national origin are the only protected groups under Ohio’s ethnic intimidation law.
“I was targeted because of who I am,” the victim said. “Who’s it going to be next time?”