A suspect in the March 29 beating of a gay El Verano teenager, an assault now classified as a hate crime, has been arrested.
The 17-year-old suspect faces charges of robbery, assault, gang involvement and commission of a hate crime in connection with the late night attack at El Verano School. He was carrying the victim’s cell phone when apprehended on April 5 near another, unrelated crime scene.
The attack was initially thought by police to be gang related, but the victim, supporters and his mother – who delivered an impassioned plea for the truth at a Sonoma City Council meeting – have been adamant that the assault was instead a hate crime.
The victim, an openly gay 18-year-old El Verano man, said the attackers shouted anti-gay slurs and insults as they beat him.
The police report by Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett stated that during the interview at the scene, “it was discovered the victim was homosexual, however initial statements made by the victims and witnesses did not suggest his sexual orientation was the motivating factor in the assault.”
Sackett said a more detailed picture emerged the next day, through subsequent interviews of three witnesses.
Those statements suggested that the attack on the primary victim “may have been motivated by his sexual orientation,” Sackett reported. “The suspects made sexually derogatory terms prior to and during the assault.”
The statements also provided leads on potential suspects. As the investigation continued, detectives from the Sheriff’s Violent Crime Investigation were able to identify one of the primary aggressors in the initial assault.
He is being held at juvenile hall without bail.