Gay couple believes they were targeted in Short North attack

Published:
Updated:

Bryson Beier and Mantej Sandhu moved to Columbus from California just a week and a half ago.

A gay couple, they purposely selected the Columbus neighborhood they thought would be most welcoming.

"We're like, let's try to center ourselves in the gay area as much as possible," said Beier. "I mean we're very proud to be in the LGBT community. We take pride in that."

Speaking with 10TV from their Short North home, they said the excitement and comfort they felt in their new community came to a violent end early Saturday morning.

"I thought I was going to die. I thought for sure this was the end," said Beier.

They said it happened just after 2 a.m. Saturday as they were walking home through the alley near The Hub parking garage off of High and Hubbard streets.

First came the anti-gay slurs.

"A group of four or five black guys were walking to their car and they just started saying like 'f****' to us and stuff like that, and we were like what? And just kept walking. And they were like, 'God hates f***," said Sandhu. "Then all of the sudden a bottle gets thrown at us. And they were saying, 'You're going to hell,' and all that stuff. We at that point stopped, turned around, we took a photo of the license plate."

They said a second car of four or five men pulled up, and both groups attacked.

"They were like, 'You trying to mess with my boy?' And then all of the sudden they start, they punch me in the face, throw me on the ground. and next to me he was going through the same thing with the other five black guys," said Sandhu. "Each took a turn- punch, kick. Punch, kick. They were like, 'Yeah, yeah.' Punch, kick. 'You like that?'"

"I don't know if it was like my own personal self-protection or what, but my vision went black and my brain just kind of shut down and I almost stopped feeling for a minute," said Beier.

Sandhu's face was swollen and streaked with blood. Beier's injuries are less visible, but he says his body is bruised and his nose fractured.

The physical pain of violence is one thing to deal with. The emotional impact is another.

"It leaves you feeling very empty and very unassured of everything," said Beier. "And everyone."

Columbus Police are investigating, leaving this couple to recover, and question what motivated such an act of hate.

"I was crying and begging them to stop, and I just know that whatever they were looking for, they did not find," said Beier.

The city of Columbus does have an ethnic intimidation or "hate crime" law that covers the LGBT community.

Columbus Police said they will investigate this attack and present the facts to prosecutors.

It will be up to them to decide whether this meets the legal definition of a hate crime. Anyone with information on this incident should call Columbus Police.

In the meantime, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, or BRAVO, will put out a safety alert on Wednesday for LGBT communities across Ohio.

"It's disheartening to know that there's still that much hatred even in Columbus and across Ohio,” BRAVO Associate Director Aaron Eckhardt said.

Eckhardt says BRAVO is receiving more reports of verbal and physical assaults locally and throughout the state.

"Certainly a few weeks ago and then in the last week I think we've seen what we're comfortable calling, a seeming increase in harassment on the street,” Eckhardt said.

BRAVO officials say they hope the safety alert will prompt other victims to come forward.