SAN DIEGO -- North Park resident Jacob Harshbarger, 32, was attacked in an alley behind his home in the early hours of Sunday, Oct. 31.
Harshbarger, who is openly gay, says he believes the assault was hate motivated.
Harshbarger, who is now recovering at home, said he was diagnosed with a concussion, had 13 stitches placed in his split and swollen lips, has a black eye and bruising in the back of that eye, and other injuries.
After returning home around 3 a.m. from local bars, Harshbarger took his two large dogs for a walk before he planned to go to bed.
Harshbarger says he has limited memory of what happened after he walked out the back door into the alley behind his house in the 4800 block of Texas Street.
He recalls seeing three men and two women "hanging out" in the alley who seemed to be "out of place." They asked him some sort of question, but he says he does not recall the content of the question.
Harshbarger says he was wearing a T-shirt with a gay sexual innuendo printed on it. He was also wearing a hoodie over that T-shirt.
After the brief exchange with the group, he recalls one of the individuals reading the provocative text on his T-shirt and immediately calling him a “f*****g faggot.”
They began beating and kicking him, and Harshbarger recalling hearing statements such as “homo” and “come over here and kick the fairy.”
A neighbor recalls hearing a big “bang” against the back side of her house, which is believed to be when Harshbarger was thrown against the wall. The neighbor and her son came out of their home and found Harshbarger lying on the ground.
Harshbarger recalls being kicked in the face when the female attackers attempted to get their male counterparts to stop. The group had a heated exchange and one of the males then kicked one of the females.
The attack finally stopped and Harshbarger next remembers being in an ambulance on the way to a local hospital.
Harshbarger’s close friend AJ Turner received a text message from him at 4:55 a.m. letting him know he was in an ambulance.
In a statement issued Sunday morning, close friends of Harshbarger said they believe the attack was a hate crime.
In the news release, close friend and LGBT activist Fernando Lopez notes Harshbarger’s status as a gay man well known in the San Diego LGBT community.
“We think of San Diego and North Park as being progressive and safe,” Lopez said. “It’s devastating that someone would do this to Jacob, or any member of our community.”
San Diego Police Officer J. Hebdon, who responded to the call early Sunday morning, said she is not sure that the attack will be classified as a hate crime.
California Penal Code section 13023 defines a hate crime as “any criminal act or attempted criminal act motivated by hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.”
Hebdon said she thinks this may have been a case of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The officer said her preliminary investigation has not turned up any witnesses of the attack.
Neighbors told the officer that they did not see anything until after the attack, once Harshbarger was already passed out on the ground.
“Nobody saw the assault,” Hebdon said.
At the time of the interview, Hebdon was still trying to get in touch with a neighbor named “Betty” whom Harshbarger was speaking to in the alley before the attack. Harshbarger and neighbors say that Betty regularly walks through the alley late at night with a flashlight and may have more information.
Hebdon noted that when she found Harshbarger lying in the alley, his hoodie jacket was zipped up, meaning that attackers would not have seen the gay-themed T-shirt that Harshbarger believed may have set off the attack.
While the identity of the attackers is not yet known, Hebdon said that a cell phone was left at the crime scene, which she believes belongs to one of the attackers. This piece of evidence may lead investigators to the attackers.
Harshbarger says he is not sure why he was attacked.
He did say that about a week ago he was lying in bed around 7 a.m. and heard a scratching noise at his window. He looked up and saw a man cutting through his window screen, followed by a hand and a head peering in.
When the man noticed Harshbarger in the room, he immediately fled down the street.
Harshbarger has no way of knowing if this incident is related to his attack but is being particularly cautious now.
The case will be turned over this morning to SDPD detectives for a full investigation.
“Whether or not this was a hate a crime, I want to make sure we are not discrediting the possibility,” Harshbarger said.
“I definitely recall there being homophobic words.”
Anyone with information about this case is asked to immediately contact the San Diego Police Department Western Division at (619) 692-4800 and reference case number 10-049521.
This homemade video by Fernando Lopez was shot sideways and cannot be corrected on our website. But the images and the words speak for themselves.