Police are investigating an attack on a Washington, D.C., couple on Sunday as a suspected hate crime after their attackers used an anti-gay slur and referenced monkeypox.
In a news release Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department asked for the public’s help in identifying two people involved in the attack, which happened shortly after 7 p.m. ET.
Police said the attackers approached the victims and made derogatory comments “based on their sexual orientation”. The victims were then attacked and fled, police said.
The victims were taken to hospitals for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Police said they were “investigating this crime as motivated by hate or bias.” They stated that as the investigation progresses and more information is gathered, the designation may change at any time.
One of the victims told NBC Washington that she was in shock after the attack.
“One of them comes up to me and punches me in the jaw, giving me a gash here that needed about three stitches,” said Antonio, who NBC Washington asked not to use his last name or show his face.
“I started noticing that I’m covered in blood. I didn’t realize how bad my lip was until other people saw it. I thought, you know, it was just a cut on my face,” he added.
In an interview on Tuesday, drops of blood could still be seen on the sandals she was wearing, and she said her boyfriend was bruised, the station reported.
“At first, I was angry and I said, ‘What ignorance is this?'” Antonio said. Still, he said, he was “not surprised” by the apparent nature of the attack, saying, “I think in the conversations we’ve had about LGBTQ people over the last two months and years. … it can happen here.”
In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was “deeply disturbed by the reported hate crime.”
“I want to send my support to the victims,” Bowser said, adding, “Whenever a hate crime occurs in our city, it’s our collective responsibility to understand the role we each play in building a safer community for everyone who lives in and visits D.C..” “
Police said, “Anyone with knowledge of this incident should take no action, but call police at (202) 727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.”
Chantal Da Silva is the breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based in London.