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Suspects apprehended in Jacob Harshbarger attack; two Halloween weekend assaults are not listed as hate crimes

SAN DIEGO -- Two suspects have been arrested in the case of Jacob Harshbarger, who was attacked in the early morning hours of Oct. 31 in an alley behind his home.

The attack, which sent shock waves through the local LGBT community and across the nation, resulted in Harshbarger being diagnosed with a concussion. He had 13 stitches placed in his split and swollen lips, a black eye and bruising in the back of that eye, and sustained other injuries.

The suspects, Michael Brandon and Christopher Blount, both 23, have been charged with felony battery, and battery likely to cause great bodily harm (no weapon).

Det. Gary Hassen of the San Diego Police Department said the incident is still being investigated and the charges are “strictly a battery on a person; it is not listed as a hate crime.”

Immediately following the attack, friends of Harshbarger issued a press release calling the incident a hate crime. Harshbarger stated that he heard multiple anti-gay epithets shouted at him, including “f*****g faggot,” “homo,” and “come over here and kick the fairy.”

Harshbarger, who says he is “healing nicely,” wants to ensure that this story resonates throughout the community, whether or not it is being tried as a hate crime.

“I am extremely empowered,” said Harshbarger, who wants his story to be told as a reminder that there is “zero tolerance for violence of any kind within and beyond our community.”

Grateful for all of the love and support he has received from the community, especially his close friend Fernando Lopez, Harshbarger said he wants to tell the world that "it gets better.”

Harshbarger has already returned to work to his job with Family Health Centers of San Diego, and hopes to return to work at his second job at Eden by this weekend.

“I am definitely grateful that I survived this incident,” said Harshbarger, who hopes his story will increase community awareness of personal safety.

The investigation and trial are pending with the District Attorney’s Office, which declined to release any additional information on the case at this time.

A second attack is under investigation

Another attack was reported in the early hours of Nov. 1, the following morning, around 2 a.m. in the South Park community.

The incident, which was first posted as a community alert on the san diego:dialed in blog, was also initially labeled a hate crime by the victims.

One of the victims, Martin Niwinski, said he was sitting in a car when he noticed his friend Daniel Crawford being attacked.

“Neither of us are gay but this was a hate crime with him being called a ‘fag’ and a ‘faggot’ multiple times before being rushed in the parking lot,” Niwinski said.

At the time of the attack, Crawford was dressed in a Halloween costume as Freddie Mercury, who was a flamboyant and openly gay lead singer of the immensely popular band Queen. Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS on Nov. 24, 1991, at the age of 45.

Initially, some in the community believed this incident may have been related to the Harshbarger case but the San Diego Police Department says they are isolated incidents.

According to Hassen, this case is also not considered a hate crime.

“Yes, a disparaging remark was made, but he [Crawford] was sitting with his girlfriend,” Hassen said.

“He is not gay, and as such, can not be a victim of a hate crime.”

Hassen says that what they know at this time is that four men were fighting and the two victims do not know the suspects.

No suspects have been identified in this case, and the investigation is still ongoing.

Anyone who may have additional information about either one of these cases should contact the San Diego Police Department at (619) 692-4800.