Police are investigating an attack on a couple in Washington, D.C., on Sunday as a suspected hate crime after, they said, their assailants used an anti-gay slur and mentioned monkeypox.
In a news release Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department called for the public's assistance in identifying two people in the assault, which unfolded shortly after 7 p.m. ET.
Police said the assailants approached the victims and made derogatory comments "based on their sexual orientation." They then assaulted the victims and fled, police said.
The victims were taken to hospitals for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Police said they were "investigating this offense as potentially being motivated by hate or bias." They noted that the designation could be changed at any point as the investigation proceeds and more information is gathered.
One of the victims told NBC Washington that he was in shock after the attack.
“One of them comes up to me and punches me in the jaw, giving me a gash right here that needed about three stitches,” said Antonio, who asked NBC Washington not to use his last name or show his face.
“I started noticing that I’m covered in blood. I didn’t realize how bad my lip was until other people saw it. I thought it was just, you know, a cut on my face,” he added.
Drops of blood could still be seen on the sandals he wore in the interview Tuesday, and he said his boyfriend was left bruised, the station reported.
“The first moment, I was just angry and I was just like, ‘What kind of ignorance is this?’” Antonio said. However, he said, he was "not shocked" by the apparent nature of the attack, saying: "I think it’s been a buildup over the last couple of months and years of conversations we’ve had about LGBTQ people. ... It can happen here.”
In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was "extremely disturbed by the reported hate crime."
"I want to send my support to the victims," Bowser said, adding: "Whenever a hate crime happens in our city, it is our collective responsibility to understand the role we each play in building a safer community for every person who lives in and visits D.C."
Police said that "anyone who has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at (202) 727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411."