Hate crime branded ‘exceptionally disturbing’ ahead of Pride celebration in Bellingham

A man was seriously injured and four boys aged 14 to 17 were in juvenile detention after a hate rampage in Bellingham town center early on Friday, according to details of the incident released by police.

A 26-year-old man was hit in the head and arm with large rocks thrown by the group of teenagers, who threatened to kill him and shouted racial and homophobic slurs in the attack first reported by the Bellingham Herald.

“What is exceptionally disturbing about this case is the young age of the suspects and the violence with which they displayed their hatred, at random, against strangers for no apparent reason other than their perception of race and sexual orientation. “said Bellingham Police Lieutenant Claudia Murphy. The Bellingham Herald in an email.

Murphy said the boys allegedly harassed several other people downtown on Friday morning.

“The four teenagers have been identified and taken into custody. There had been previous reports to security officers that the four were throwing things at people in the downtown hallway,” she said.

Friday’s attack began near Waypoint Park, the starting point for this weekend’s Pride in Bellingham Parade and related festivities.

It also comes as LGBTQIA+ people face increased harassment across the country from evangelical Christians and far-right extremists and have been targeted by laws aimed at limiting their civil rights.

The names of the victims have not been released and the names of the suspects have been withheld because they are minors, Murphy said.

She said the boys were:

14 years old, Burlington

14 years old, Fernande

14 years old, Bellingham

17 years old, Bellingham

Their victims were described as two 26-year-old men and a 29-year-old man.

In the reported incident at 3:24 a.m. Friday outside the Granary Building, the four teenagers began slapping a 26-year-old man with their shirts and attempted to hit him with a Razor scooter, Murphy told the Herald in an email.

They also threw large rocks at the man, causing swelling and open wounds to his head and arm, she said.

He then sought medical attention on his own, Murphy said.

During the attack, the victim took the scooter away and used it for self-defence, eventually throwing the scooter into Bellingham Bay, Murphy said.

The four boys followed the victim as he walked home, continuing to use homophobic and racial slurs.

“Victim 1 called a friend, Victim 3, who responded downtown with Victim 2 and found the group of teenagers,” Murphy said.

“When Victim 3 confronted the group about his behavior towards Victim 1, the four suspects began threatening to shoot and stab Victim 3 and Victim 2. They made comments such as ‘I’m going to stab,’ ‘I’ll shoot you.’ and ‘I’ll come (expletive) to find you,'” Murphy said.

The incident was labeled a felony assault and a hate crime in the online Police Activity Log.

A total of 12 hate crimes were reported to Whatcom County Police Departments in 2021, the last year data was available from the FBI.

Last November, a swastika was painted on a Waypoint Park sidewalk.

Murphy said the attack qualified as a hate crime under Washington state law because the boys injured one man and threatened to injure or kill two other men based on the suspects’ perception race and sexual orientation of their victims.

A hate crime is more serious than an incident of bias because it involves assault or the threat of injury, she said.

“The Bellingham Police Department is committed to the thorough and comprehensive investigation of hate crimes in order to bring justice to those targeted by hate. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a hate crime, please report it to us so that a full investigation can be conducted,” Murphy said.

Victims of crime should call 911 for an incident in progress, or the non-emergency number for police at 360-676-6911 to file a report on a crime that happened in the past, it said. she stated.

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