Four Florida men who stand accused of battering a gay couple at Miami Beach Gay Pride festival last month are now facing hate crime charges.
Footage of the April 8 attack shows Rene Chalarca and his boyfriend, Dmitry Logunov, being brutally beaten after being seen holding hands just before the assault.
When a bystander, Helmut Muller Estrada, attempted to protect the victims, he too was beaten until he was knocked unconscious and awoke in a pool of his own blood, according to reports.
The aggressors were also heard hurling anti-gay slurs as they beat the men to the ground.
Speaking to South Florida news outlet Sun-Sentinel, Mr Chalarca recalls:
We were outside of the bathroom, and then he hit him. I grabbed the guy, but he was already on the floor, and then the other people came and started hitting him.
The suspects are Luis M. Alonso Piovet, aged 20, Juan Carlos Lopez, aged 21, Adonis Diaz, aged 21, and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, aged 21.
After their faces were plastered over the news and social media, they turned themselves in. At the time, authorities charged them with aggravated battery. Now they’ll be facing new charges of aggravated battery committed with prejudice.
They have pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges.
Last year saw hate crime rates rise to a four-year high in Florida – and this is without considering the 49 victims shot dead in gay nightclub Pulse in 2016. The attack is the second deadliest single-day mass shooting in the United States behind only the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.