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Victim of a hate crime left with no police help: now what?

I was awakened late last Monday night by a telephone call. It was a friend of mine in San Francisco, obviously shaken up and fearful.

Explaining painfully, he stated he had just been physically attacked and verbally assaulted in an elevator for being gay. The police – I could hear them in the background during the call – were present, but not assisting him; they instead were chuckling at his expense. He needed help.

Now a victim of a hate crime, my friend – on his own – courageously did all the things he possibly could to protect his person and legal rights. After this incident, I sought his permission to share his story so that others can better protect themselves too. He said absolutely, and so here it is…

The incident:

My friend was leaving a local bar to go home. Alone, he attempted to enter the elevator to leave. When the elevator doors opened, a sole individual, male, was in the elevator. Upon seeing my friend, the male proceeded to cuss at him, using explicative language, ordering him to stay out of the elevator, calling him a fag.

The taunting continued, and my friend responded by requesting him to stop saying these things. This request, however, landed my friend inside the elevator - pulled in against his will and fighting for his life - while the elevator doors closed behind him.

Screaming as loud as he could while physically protecting himself, my friend was hit all over his body and face. When the doors finally opened, the man fled the scene.

Building security eventually came to offer help. The police were called and arrived shortly thereafter, but it wasn't long before their assistance became unwanted.

These two San Francisco police officers - supposedly employed to uphold California law - thought this situation to be funny, and merely questioned my friend about his intoxication level. On top of that, while listening to his story, the police giggled and proceeded to do absolutely nothing.

Physically and emotionally in pain, my friend took it upon himself to do these next amazing actions. It was these actions that are worth retelling because of their intrinsic value. It was these actions that saved my friends rights and protected our legal system. It was these actions that make my friend a hero in his own right.

The actions:

Left with no current police assistance, my friend proceeded to call 911, this time himself.

He told the 911 operator about the incident. He gave explicit detail about the fact the responding police officers were mocking him, laughing at him, and doing absolutely nothing to help. He provided both the officers' names. When the officers proceeded to tell him to get off the phone, my friend made mention of this fact to the 911 operator.

Finally pulled off the phone, my friend waited for another opportunity to call me. He believed calling an attorney might assist in getting the police to act. However, the police would not let him talk to me, either. I could hear their requests for him to get off the phone in the background.

Later that day, we were finally able to talk. However, by then, my friend was even more upset, and left with no hope; but he continued to seek assistance, anyway.

By calling 911, even when the police were already present, my friend left a detailed, RECORDED account of the incident just as it occurred. He left a recorded account of the officers' names, their inactions and discrimination. By these actions, already, he gave future prosecutors and civil rights attorneys enough to work with. 911 tapes are usually available for about three to six months. In court, these tapes are invaluable.

By calling an attorney immediately to ask what he needs to do next, my friend saved himself a lot of heartache and trouble.

The end result:

That next morning, he was able to notify the District Attorney’s office of the incident. He was able to insure that prosecution would occur. He was able to capture the video that was available from building security. And, he was able to launch an investigation into these two officer’s inaction.

A hate crime occurred, and then, another injustice had occurred on top of that.

Because he had the courage to call for help, record these incidents, and move forward in the face of all of this, my friend was able to have his attacker arrested and have two “officers” removed from the streets.

I cannot believe this occurred; but it did. Actions here will eventually speak louder than the hater's words.

Thomas Hughes, Esq. was born and raised in San Diego, and got his Law Degree at Whitter Law School in Orange County, Ca. After three years prosecuting as a Riverside County deptuty District Attorney, Hughes returned to San Diego to start his own criminal defense firm. He has law offices in San Diego and Temecula, and also works as a technical advisor to CSI Los Angeles.