Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry were holding hands after leaving a gay club in downtown Austin, Texas, before 3 a.m. last Saturday. They say this affectionate gesture is what led to the brutal attack they endured.
“We weren’t acting crazy, we weren’t drinking, we were just walking back to our car after we had a great night with our friends,” Tristan Perry told NBC affiliate KXAN.
A man approached them and hurled anti-gay slurs, they said. Soon after, others allegedly approached and joined the man in taunting the couple.
“That’s when Tristan took the first punch directly to his face, and that is what broke his nose,” Deehring said. “He took two or three more punches, and then he was down on the ground motionless, and he took a very hard kick to the back of the head.”
Deehring said he then lunged at the attackers, who in turn started to attack him, leaving him unconscious.
A bystander then called 911 and waited with the couple until police and EMS arrived. Both men were hospitalized
"If the bystander had not been there, [the attackers] may have continued, it may have been much worse," Deehring said.
According to a report issued by the Austin Police Department, officers responded to a call around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“The witness said that two male individuals had signs of injury and appeared to have been beaten up badly,” the report stated. “After calling the victims derogatory names and assaulting them, the suspects fled the scene.”
Late on Tuesday, Austin police released details of the suspects: One is “described as a Hispanic male, wearing a blue shirt with white stripes (polo style). The other suspect is described as a White male with no shirt.”
The police said they’re currently investigating the incident as a hate crime. “[W]e want our community to know we do not tolerate these types of crimes,” a spokesperson for the Austin Police Department said.
Reflecting on the incident, Deehring said, “Be aware of your surroundings, but don’t change who you are as a person.”
Anna Nguyen, the president of Austin’s chapter PFLAG, told KXAN she finds the attack "alarming."
“It feels as if lately the frequency has ratcheted up quite a bit,” she said of anti-gay attacks. “Austin as a community needs to step up its game and prove that it’s one of the most LGBTQIA-friendly cities in the country by deeds and not just words.”
Austin police are now calling upon the public to help them apprehend the suspects: “If anyone has information or was in the area of 3rd St. and Congress Ave. that you please call APD immediately (512) 974-9207 or submit tips via Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.”
The FBI’s latest hate crimes report, which was released in November, found a 17 percent year-over-year increase in federal hate crimes across the U.S. The annual report showed there were 7,175 bias crimes in 2017 involving 8,828 victims. Victims targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity comprised 1,470 — or nearly 17 percent — of all victims.