A young man remains in critical condition after last weekend's brutal attack by a baseball bat-wielding group of six men outside popular gay club in El Paso. Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy for the beating and claim the assault was gang-related and "not" a hate crime, reports the El Paso Times.
The assault, police said, was gang-related and did not meet the criteria of a "hate crime," which upset the victim's family and gay-rights activists who said Lionel Martinez was targeted only because he was near the Old Plantation nightclub frequented by gays and lesbians.
Police arrested the teen gang member Thursday afternoon on suspicion of aggravated assault. More arrests are expected. The teen's name was not released because he is a juvenile. Martinez, 22, remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday and has yet to regain consciousness after early Saturday attack, said his sister Deanne Martinez.
The family says Martinez—who is not gay—visited the club with his sister and her friends. Later, witnesses say a verbal confrontation with six men outside "escalated to punching and kicking and one of the six men used a bat to hit" Martinez.
LGBT rights advocates are outraged and say the suspect's gang affiliation should not matter, reports KVIA.
What should matter, according to them, is that Martinez was targeted because he was coming out of a gay club. "They have not worked well with the gay community almost to the point that they're a very bigoted organization," said Daniel Rollings, chair of the El Paso chapter of Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays.
Rollings said hate crimes against gays are unreported because El Paso police officers are not properly trained. "I don't believe the El Paso Police Department has ever done their sensitivity training that they swore they were going to do," he said. ... Rollings said El Paso police have been unresponsive to the safety needs of the gay community and says not classifying the crime as hate crime is ridiculous. "This would be a perfect example of why they need to do that," Rollings said.
The FBI is investigating the case as a possible "civil rights violation." FBI officials have told Martinez's family that two arrests had been made, but that has not been confirmed.