Man left needing stitches after attack by stranger who asked: ‘Are you gay?’
A Florida man needed 10 stitches after allegedly being punched in the face by a man who asked if he was gay.
James Garcia, 49, said he was walking his dog Delilah on Sunday (17 April) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when a man approached him, asked if he was gay, then attacked him.
Speaking to 7News Miami, Garcia said: “As I was leaving the building, I heard from a distance, towards the ocean someone screaming.
“He came up to me and asked me, ‘Are you gay?’ and then punched me… I didn’t respond, it just happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to react except falling down.”
He told the news outlet that he needed 10 stitches, and “fractured the cartilage on both sides of my nose”.
Officers arrested Maurice Charles, 36, on Tuesday (19 April) after Garcia identified him using photos provided by police. The suspect was released from prison in December 2021, according to the New York Post, and is now facing a new charge of aggravated battery.
Garcia told 7News Miami: “This is a crime of hate. Whether he was targeting me, someone else he suspected as part of the LGBTQ community… Yes, definitely a crime of hate.
“I think about the attacker when I close my eyes. I can hear his voice, so those wounds will take time to heal.”
The state of Florida has come under fire in recent months both for its harmful “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which will block the discussion of LGBT+ topics in classrooms, but also for pushing legislation that would criminalise gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state.
Democratic representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida’s first LGBT+ Latino legislator, condemned the proposal in a statement to Orlando Sentinel.
“Florida Republicans are on a dangerous course, retaliating against any person or business who expresses support for the LGBTQ+ community,” Smith said.
“This latest threat to criminalise parents and doctors who provide life-saving care for LGBTQ youth should shock the conscience of all Floridians.”