A 17-year-old girl in Kentucky is recovering after being attacked by a group of adults who a family friend alleges hurled anti-gay slurs at her, WAVE 3 Louisville is reporting.
"This was a hate crime. There was hate slurs thrown. It was not a robbery," Brenda Hickerson, the family friend, told the station. "She is a very proud lesbian girl and they were attacked for that very reason."
According to Hickerson, the teen had to have her jaw wired shut because it had been broken in several places and that some of her teeth had been knocked out as well, on top of the cuts and bruises she suffered.
The girl was reportedly walking home from a convenience store near Churchill Downs in Louisville at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday with two younger boys. The mother of those boys, Andi Hornback, told WAVE 3 that one of her sons called to say four adults were following them too closely. Before Hornback could get the teens' location, the assault began. One of her sons ended up with a concussion after he tried to help the girl.
Dwight Mitchell, a public information officer with the Louisville police told The Huffington Post that the victims reported seeing three adult males, two white and one biracial, and one adult light-skinned female. The youths also said they hearing someone yell out, "Let's get 'em" before they were attacked. The assailants allegedly stole a cell phone and then fled.
As for whether police believe the incident was the result of anti-gay hate, Mitchell said they don't yet have physical evidence, but that they haven't ruled it out.
"We are looking into that aspect at it at this time," he said. "But right now, it's a robbery and we haven't ruled out any factor."
Mitchell also noted that the police can provide evidence that a crime had anti-gay motivations, but that it's up to the courts to make that determination because Kentucky does not have a hate crime statute.
"The police department doesn't decide that," he said.
Last month, the federal government prosecuted someone for the first time for a hate crime directed at a gay person under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009. The victim, Kevin Pennington, was brutally beaten by David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins and the attack also occurred in Kentucky.
UPDATED 7/24 11am: The Fairness Campaign, an LGTB rights organization based in Louisville, released a statement to The Huffington Post on behalf of the victim's family:
We would like it on public record that none of the three kids who were attacked reported or remember hearing any anti-gay slurs. However, they do feel the female 17-year-old, who happens to be a lesbian, was the target of the attack. The boys were pushed aside, yet one did suffer a concussion as a result, but the girl was assaulted significantly more than the boys.
We feel that no matter what, the motive was hate. Who could violently assault someone like this without provocation or cause and not carry so much hate inside? However, we cannot yet determine this as an official “hate crime” legally, and that will be decided at a later time in the legal system.