Video: Man says he was brutally beaten for being gay

  1. Closed captioning of: Man says he was brutally beaten for being gay

    >>> 13 years ago the nation was shocked and saddened by the beating death of matthew shepherd . it was husband murder that spurred the passage of hate crime lawses. sadly for many in this country, that hate has not died off as evidenced by the pictures you're about to see. we want to warn you, they are disturbing. these are pictures of burke burnett . burnett is from reno, texas , savage li burned, beaten nearly to death by three men over halloween weekend. he says they did it because he's gay. but despite the attack he is now speaking out about it. burke burnett joins me now to talk about this. appreciate you talking time to join us today. i want to start off though with -- you were at this halloween party. it's in reno, texas . you're there with friends. three men at this party find out that you're gay. explain how they found out and what hey did with that information.

    >> well, i'm openly gay . so i'm assuming -- i'm assume that they just knew i was gay from having lived in that small town themselves. their reaction to that was that that you just described. violent and hateful and horrible.

    >> what happened when this attack began? what happened with the other people at the party? how were you saved, as we say you were stabbed, as i understand it, with a broken beer bottle . obviously the men were beating and kicking you. they then threw you into a fire. explain how you were saved and also explain the attack itself, the violence and what they were yelling at you.

    >> yes, sir. they were yelling stuff that i wouldn't repeat on camera. the only reason that i did get saved is because there was a small group of females that actually jumped in and helped me out, helped save my life. they had the attackers stop and i was able to get away.

    >> burke , explain the injuries that you suffered.

    >> burns, two stab wounds. as you can see over my eye, sow sewed up. just really pretty bad stuff.

    >> as i understand it, you received over 30 stitches from the attack with the broken beer bottle .

    >> yes, sir.

    >> the burns to your body, where are they?

    >> on my arms, on both arms. i'm kind of wrapped up so you can't see them. but on both my arms. on my rib cage right here, and then a few on my head, on my forehead.

    >> burke , beyond the fact that the three men are now charge with aggravated assault, arrested in this case. the police, the da haven't said too much about this. they're saying that it's going to be up to a grand jury to decide whether they prosecute this as hate crime . as i understand it, under texas law, hate crime enhancement could result in the charges being bumped up from the second degree felonies to first degree felonies, punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison. do you personally want to see them push for this to be considered a hate crime ?

    >> it's -- it's not my job to decide whether or not what justice is exactly for these guys. i want to see justice served. i have every faith in the county district attorney's office that they will handle it properly.

    >> burke , how has suffering this attack, what you've gone through and the recovery, how do you think it's changed you?

    >> it's made me more aware that this kind of -- this kind of stuff still goes on. i guess i sort of forgot that there was still that much hatred, that much animosity towards the gay and lesbian population. i didn't -- i didn't realize that. so it's certainly heightened my awareness that this type of stuff still goes on.

    >> burke burnett , we wish you the very best and a speedy recovery. and we appreciate you taking the time and the courage that you have to speak out about this and hopefully it's going to raise the dialogue and maybe shed some light on intolerance around this country. burke , thanks so much. appreciate it.
updated 11/7/2011 12:59:46 PM ET 2011-11-07T17:59:46

A gay man from Texas who was beaten at a party said Monday he's content to leave it up to the legal system to decide whether his alleged attackers should be charged with hate crimes.

Burke Burnett, 26, said the men attacked him with a broken bottle before throwing him in a fire. He suffered burns on his arms, ribs and forehead and required 30 stitches.

Burnett, who said his attackers shouted things during the assault that he couldn't repeat on air, believes his attackers knew he was gay because they all came from a small town and he is open about his homosexuality.

Three men were charged with aggravated assault in the attack at a Halloween party in Reno, Texas, on Oct 30. A grand jury will weigh whether to up the charges to a hate crime, which could mean much lengthier prison terms if convicted.

"It's not my job to decide what justice is exactly for these guys," Burnett told MSNBC TV when asked if he wanted the men charged with a hate crime. "I want to see justice served."

Burnett said he could have been killed had it not been for some women at the party who "jumped in and helped me out, helped save my life."

The attack, he added, "made me more aware that this kind of stuff still goes on. I guess I sort of forgot that there was still that much hatred."

Burke earlier told local media that he disclosed his homosexuality when he was 15, having been inspired by the story of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student tortured and killed in 1998 for being gay.

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