An attack early Friday near a Pasadena bar is being investigated as a hate crime due to comments reportedly made by the assailants.
Six victims were attacked around 2:30 a.m. in a parking lot behind ix Tapa Cantina, a restaurant and nightclub on bustling Colorado Boulevard, according to the Pasadena Police Department.
Lt. Bill Grisafe, a spokesperson for the department, said victims reported multiple men instigated the violence and that it was unprovoked.
The night of the attack, ix Tapa Cantina was holding its weekly drag night, bar owner Jack Huang said by phone Monday.
Ix Tapa, located in the city’s popular Old Town area, began hosting the event about six months ago, and Huang said it draws a large LGBTQ crowd.
“It’s very sad that this kind of stuff is still going on,” Huang said. “It just makes you really, really upset and sad.”
Huang wasn’t at his establishment at the time of the altercation, and heard the events from staff secondhand — including a report that one of the guests was “severely injured.”
Three men detailed the harrowing incident in an interview with KABC-TV Channel 7, showing graphic photos of their bruised and bloodied faces. Diamond Gonzalez, of El Monte, told the outlet that he was struck from behind and that the blow “knocked me out cold.”
“Everyone looked like bowling pins getting knocked down,” Noah Offield, another victim, told the outlet. The beating reportedly lasted five to 10 minutes.
For the last 28 years, Huang has operated restaurants in the Old Town area and he said in general the community has supported its LGBTQ residents. He says he can’t remember the last time what he described as “gay-bashing” took place in the area, but wearily noted it can happen anywhere.
According to Grisafe, comments reportedly made by the attackers prompted the authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime. He didn’t provide details about what was said.
In a statement posted to social media, the Pasadena Police Department said “it recognizes the importance of protecting the safety and dignity of all of our community members and we stand in solidarity with those affected by the heinous attacks perpetrated last week.”
Gonzalez, one of the victims, told ABC-7 his goal for speaking out “is to seek justice for my friends and my family and also to make sure that this never happens to anybody else.”
It’s not known how many assailants there were. Grisafe said accounts varied on the number and their descriptions, and police are now seeking evidence to clarify.
Huang said the bar doesn’t have cameras pointed at the parking lot, which is operated by a private company that is cooperating with the investigation.
The next drag night is fast approaching, but Huang isn’t sure if they’ll host it this week.
“Maybe some people are going to feel a little nervous to come out,” he said.
Going forward, he’s considering stationing personnel in the parking lot at the end of the night.
“Just to provide a higher level of security awareness,” he said.