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A hate crime unnoticed by the public

Wednesday, Sep 11 2002
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SEVEN OF US, ALL GAY MEN OF VARIOUS ETHNIC backgrounds, were huddled around three tables eating a late dinner at the California Chicken Café on Melrose. The latest rash of gay bashings in West Hollywood weighed heavily on our minds. We talked about 33-year-old Trev Broudy, in a coma after random attackers beat him with a baseball bat and a lead pipe over the Labor Day weekend. "Why don't they go attack some gays in East L.A.?" one of my friends asked. We chuckled when someone said they'd probably get their asses kicked 'cause those punks would be no match for East L.A. queens.

I suppose I reacted to the beatings as every other gay person would. They horrified and angered me. And I must admit I felt just as pained when I found out that Broudy's attackers were described as African-American men, like me. It became clear that I was also angry with the way gay institutions in the city had responded to Broudy's attack. The gay powers that be made Broudy, a handsome young actor and a white gay male, the next poster child for anti-gay hate crimes. A candlelight vigil and a march down Santa Monica Boulevard were already in the works. We'd be hearing a lot about that guy over the next several weeks, maybe months, I thought, probably much the same way as we did when young, white Matthew Shepard was killed up in Wyoming a couple of years ago.

The image of a pair of tough Latino gay boys whoopin' ass after foiling an attack stayed with me as the dinner conversation turned toward less troublesome issues. I began to think about Ricardo Ferrise, a gay Latino man I know. A small, friendly guy with a sweet smile, Ferrise, in his late 20s, wasn't lucky enough to be the tough homo-thug from the Eastside who could take on a trio of vicious fag-bashers. He, too, had recently been brutally beaten late one night in mid-July as he walked home to his apartment on the West Hollywood­Los Angeles border. Knocked to the ground, Ferrise managed to climb a fence and escape to a school yard, where he hid in some bushes. When he thought it was safe to come out, he hopped a fence onto another street, only to find his attackers waiting there. Ferrise told me that while they beat him, he begged for his life as they called him a fag and a punk. Eventually he passed out and awoke later in a hospital bed. But for the two days that Ferrise stayed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, just a couple of floors above where Trev Broudy now fights for his life, no one talked of a candlelight vigil or a march down Santa Monica Boulevard against hate crimes.

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It does not appear that Ferrise's attackers were the same as Broudy's; Ferrise said the men who beat him up were either Latino or Asian. They took his wallet, shoes, shirt and designer sunglasses. His case was handled by the LAPD and, according to Ferrise, received little attention.

"There was concern that we dropped the ball," said Officer Stacey Simmons, the gay and lesbian liaison for the LAPD. "We did everything we were supposed to do. We have hundreds of hate crimes a year. We don't put out press releases for each case. In the Broudy case, they almost killed a man. You want to allay concerns in the community." Simmons says that press releases generally go out when the case is more high profile or when police want to reach out to the public for help.

Two weeks after his attack, Ferrise contacted the city of West Hollywood, the Gay and Lesbian Center and the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station to tell them what had happened to him. Although they were sympathetic, he says, more should have been done to alert the community. "When something like a hate crime happens, we take comfort in the fact that we are a community," said Ferrise. "I don't understand why nothing was made of my case. It wasn't a random beating. It was a hate crime. It was guys chasing and hunting me down."

Jeff Kim, deputy director of legal services at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, says they are not in the publicity business. "The victim is vulnerable already. We focus on making sure they are safe, getting them medical attention and in touch with law enforcement," said Kim. "Our focus is to get the client to heal."

Kim says that he is not surprised that Ferrise's case didn't receive any publicity. "There are more than 1,000 hate crimes a year. The LAPD is not going to put out a press release for every single crime. With Trev's case, he had friends who were media savvy, and they were able to push that forward. West Hollywood is a gay mecca, and they are supersensitive to it. They might have been more prepped for it than the LAPD." The center also sent out a press release in the Broudy case, detailing the crime and noting the $60,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his attackers.

I had trouble enjoying my dinner that night. It seems to me that the community should be told of any hate crime that lands someone in the hospital. It's time for gay media outlets and institutions to stop using white males exclusively as poster boys against anti-gay hate crimes. It's not fair. It diminishes the fact that everybody is vulnerable to acts of random violence. Maybe Trev Broudy would have been more watchful that night had he read about what had happened to Ricardo Ferrise.

Christine Pelisek contributed to this report.

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