Four U.S. Marines were arrested for assault after allegedly beating a man outside a popular gay bar in southern California, and the attack was being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said.
The victim, a film student from San Dimas, was beaten unconscious early Monday morning outside the Silver Fox bar in Long Beach, Calif., where he had gone with his boyfriend, CBSLA.com reported. The Marines were out on bail and have returned to their units, a Marine Corps’ spokesman told NBC News.
The Marines came into the bar late Sunday or early Monday. One of them allegedly made derogatory remarks to the man, according to media reports.
“You could tell by the tone of his voice that he [the Marine] was uncomfortable. He was making a demeaning remark,” Silver Fox Manager John Barnes told the Press-Telegram on Monday, adding that the alleged attacker had called the victim “sweetheart.”
The victim, who told CBS that he did not want to be identified out of concern for his safety, said the assault occurred outside the bar. Witnesses said the men used homophobic slurs, the television station reported.
“He starts pushing me and calling me f–,” the victim said, noting that he later blacked out.
Two people who tried to help the victim were also attacked but either were not hurt or had only minor injuries, police spokeswoman Nancy Pratt said late Tuesday in a statement.
“Based on the preliminary investigation, it was determined that an assault had occurred to a male adult by several male suspects after they had left the establishment,” she said. “The Long Beach Police Department is handling this case and are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.”
The Marine Corps learned of the attack on Tuesday and was performing its own inquiry as well as cooperating with police, Maj. Manuel Delarosa, a spokesman for the Marines, said early Wednesday.
The Marines, based at Camp Pendleton in southern California, were in their first enlistment, he said, adding that the attack was an isolated incident and that last year’s repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy hadn’t come up as an issue.
“This is behavior that’s not acceptable in the Marine Corps,” Delarosa said. “Any crimes of intolerance are unacceptable and not tolerated as far as behavior expected of a United States Marine.”
Pratt said police planned to present the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.