A gay couple was beaten and bloodied outside a bar in Connecticut. Both men say the incident was a hate crime, but local authorities disagree.
In a statement shared Tuesday, Casey Fitzpatrick said she and her husband, Nicholas Ruiz — owner of Troupe429 in Norwalk, Connecticut — were violently assaulted by a male bar patron who also belittled them with anti-LGBTQ comments. The incident in mid-September sent Ruiz to the hospital and required more than 50 stitches to his face and $20,000 worth of plastic surgery, Fitzpatrick said in a statement posted on the bar’s website Tuesday.
Fitzpatrick said the attack was a hate crime and the incident is being “mishandled” by the Norwalk Police Department.
“As of October 11th, almost two and a half weeks after the attack, no charges have been filed and no suspect has been arrested,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “We are asking for your help and support in seeking justice for Nicholas.”
The Norwalk Police Department announced Wednesday that the suspect, Carmen Everett Parisi, had been arrested later that day, and said in a statement to NBC News that they did not find that the attack was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias.
“The police department made the arrest following a judge’s order to review video footage from inside the bar and attempt to obtain sworn statements from the two victims,” Lt. Terrence Blake, public information officer for the Norwalk Police Department. and LGBTQ relationships, he said in a statement Wednesday. “Video footage captured by body cameras and body cameras at the scene does not show any race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation (RRES) language or anti-LGBTQ motivation associated with the attack.”
On the evening of the attack, a male patron “repeatedly harassed and made several female patrons and our staff uncomfortable,” prompting staff to “respectfully” escort the man off the premises, according to Fitzpatrick’s statement.
When the man wouldn’t leave the bar’s entrance, Fitzpatrick said, Ruiz went outside to defuse the situation and begged the man to “peacefully” leave the area. The man then made offensive remarks about the bar and people inside using anti-LGBTQ slurs, Fitzpatrick said.
The man then became violent, repeatedly punching the right side of Ruiz’s face and clawing at her chest, ripping her clothes and ripping a necklace from her neck, Fitzpatrick wrote. The suspect also hit Fitzpatrick in the neck, closing off his airway, Fitzpatrick added.
The statement was accompanied by a graphic image of Ruiz in the twilight of the incident. Ruiz can be seen lying in a hospital bed with a cut cheek and blood running down his body.
“As of October 11, almost two and a half weeks after the attack, no charges have been filed and no suspect has been arrested,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “We are asking for your help and support in seeking justice for Nicholas.”
The Norwalk Police Department and Fitzpatrick confirmed that police responded to the incident the evening of the attack.
But in the weeks that followed, Fitzpatrick said he and Ruiz received “zero updates,” despite Fitzpatrick’s repeated emails, calls and visits to the department. The Norwalk Police Department said in a statement to NBC News that it attempted to obtain sworn statements from the victims, “who did not show up for their appointments.”
In an email to NBC News on Thursday, Ruiz and Fitzpatrick said they were grateful police had arrested the suspect, but again dismissed the department’s version of events.
“We always cooperated with law enforcement, never missed an appointment and remain committed to helping in any way we can,” the couple said. “Our hearts are heavy for having lived through this experience and knowing that violent attacks in our community go unanswered. It was scary to have to speak up and not know if recovering from the trauma would bring justice.”
The Norwalk incident is the latest in a string of violent threats and attacks against LGBTQ people across the country this year.
At least three LGBTQ events were targeted by white nationalist groups in June — designated as LGBTQ Pride Month — and in April, a man entered a New York bar with a bottle of flammable liquid, which he threw on the bar floor, setting it alight. a match and set the place on fire, police said.
More than 1,300 hate-motivated incidents against Americans in 2020 were motivated by their sexual orientation or gender identity, accounting for 16% of all bias-motivated encounters that year, according to the FBI’s most recent hate crime data.
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