KEY WEST, Fla. -- Police in this island resort city are labeling the beating of two men on November 10 an anti-gay hate crime and designated the investigation the department's top priority.
"The whole Police Department is focused on this," Mayor Craig Cates told reporters.
The local newspaper, the Keynoter, reported that John Stutter, 33, and Nicholas Leddy, 31, a gay couple from Brooklyn, had attended a wedding for two friends at the historic Hemingway House, and as they they were walking down Duval Street in the early morning hours following the event, were attacked by an unknown assailant who came up from behind and called them "faggots."
According to a police report, Stutter said that, after cursing at them, "the unknown male then punched him in the neck." The victim also reported that he was then put in a headlock and punched "several times" in the head.
A passerby reportedly intervened and the suspect fled.
Ket West police spokesperson Alyson Cream declined to comment on the case, but noted that there is possibly video footage recorded by a security camera near the crime scene.
"The detectives do not discuss while it's still open and under investigation," she said.
Cates noted that the city of Key West hosts approximately 2.5 million visitors per year and that there's no indication whether the alleged attacker is a local or from out of town. Included in those figures are a large number of LGBT tourists, who have long flocked to Key West for its non-judgmental attitude.
Cates however took exception to this crime saying;
"I'm very serious about this (investigation)," Cates said. "We don't want any crime -- hate crimes ... they're crimes for a senseless reason."
The Florida Attorney General's Office tracks hate crimes with the most recent figures available being gathered in 2010; that year there were 149 reported hate crimes in Florida.
According to the AG's report, "Hate crimes motivated by the victim's race represented 46.3 percent of all reported hate crimes, followed by sexual orientation at 21.5 percent, religion at 19.5 percent and ethnicity/national origin at 12.7 percent. No hate crimes were reported under the categories of physical disability, mental disability or advanced age."
Florida law allows for enhanced penalties against defendants found guilty of committing a hate crime.
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