A gay man in Fort Lauderdale suffered multiple facial injuries after he was punched by a stranger who first asked if he was gay.
James Garcia said he was walking his dog, Delilah, outside his condominium on the morning of Sunday, April 17, when he was attacked, suffering two facial fractures and multiple wounds requiring 10 stitches to close. Police later arrested Maurice Antwan Charles, 36, in connection with the attack.
"When I close my eyes I see this attacker every day," Garcia told WPLG. "I hear his voice. I see his face."
Garcia said he left his condominium on A1A near 27th Street around 7:45 a.m. when he heard screaming nearby. A few moments he said the man he later identified as Charles approached him.
"Never seen the person in my life. Don't know who he is," Garcia said, becoming emotional. "When he approached me, [he] asked me if I was gay, and then he punched me."
The punch was so brutal that it knocked Garcia off his feet.
"He punched me really hard. I fell to the ground bleeding," Garcia continued. "My phone was covered in blood. I couldn't call 911. My fingers kept slipping."
He said one passerby ignored his plea for help while he was bleeding on the ground.
"Thankfully another person from the neighborhood stopped, called the police."
Garcia said he suffered multiple facial fractures and two lacerations that required 10 stitches to repair.
The homophobic attack is one of several to have occurred recently.
Pride Media's editorial director of print, Neal Broverman, and his husband Robbie Pierce, were attacked for being gay parents on an AMTRAK train in California while traveling with their two small children. As The Advocate reported, a man aboard berated the couple's children, called Broverman and Pierce "rapists" and accused them of "stealing Black and Asian children." Pride Media is the parent company of The Advocate.
On April 9, Saoirse Gowan, a transgender woman, was riding the metro in Washington, D.C. when a man took out his phone and began live-streaming himself harassing Gowan.
"You're a sick f*ck," the unidentified man says on the video. "You're a white man, and you're a sick fuck. You don't belong in this fucking metro." Gowan documented the incident on video which she later posted to social media.
Scott McCoy, Interim Deputy Legal Director LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Advocate the has seen an increase in attacks directed at the community and connects the rise to the increase in legislation like Florida's recently passed "don't say gay" law.
"The anti-LGBTQ legislation alone this year has been potentially recording breaking, and this, coupled with the labeling of those opposed to this legislation as 'groomers' by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' press secretary, has really unmasked how Republican lawmakers introducing these bills really see the LGBTQ community," McCoy told The Advocate.
Charles has a lengthy criminal record, with separate previous convictions for aggravated battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. It is unclear if Broward County prosecutors will add an additional hate crime charge to the current aggravated battery charge facing Charles.