Gay Men Targeted In Three Attacks In Columbus

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6a00d8341c730253ef01901d461201970b-800wiA string of assaults and robberies of gay men during the past week has put the gay community and others on alert, less than two weeks before the Pride Festival begins in Columbus.

Advocates say the assaults and harassment of gay men and women are more common than the public knows.

In the most recent incident, a 32-year-old man was assaulted near E. 5th and Indianola avenues around 3 a.m. Monday. Columbus police classified it as a hate crime.

Christopher Kratavil, who works as service manager at Union Cafe in the Short North, had just walked his ex-boyfriend home and was headed toward his own house in the Short North when at least two men attacked him, fracturing his orbital bone, he told police.

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Earlier that morning, around 1:45, David Conley, 27, was walking near his home in Olde Towne East when several people started to follow him, shouting gay slurs. They then beat him with a club and robbed him of his cellphone, he said.

Conley was treated at a local hospital.

One man, Anthony Williams, 20, of 721 Wilson Ave., has been arrested and charged with robbery in the incident.

It was the first time in 10 years of living in Columbus that Conley had ever experienced an anti-gay incident.

“I’ve never heard of it, but now I hear it and I’m involved in it,” he said.

A third assault happened on Thursday evening in Merion Village near the Southbend Tavern, a gay bar at E. Moler and S. 4th streets.

Chris Ashcraft, 25, from northern Kentucky, was outside the bar smoking when a man asked him for help with car trouble. He said he was jumped by several men when he went to help. He was beaten and kicked in his face, then left unconscious in an alley.

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No anti-gay comments were made to the victim, according to Sgt. Rich Weiner, a police spokesman. But Ashcraft has said that he believes he was targeted because he was outside a gay bar.

Hate crimes, as defined by Columbus police, are rare. Just two incidents were labeled as such in the first three months of the year, the most recent statistics available.

“We don’t see a pattern, however we’re aware of what the community is saying, so we’re watching,” Weiner said. By Ohio law, a hate crime isn’t a crime on its own but rather something that can make sentencing for a conviction more severe.

BRAVO — the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization — keeps track of violence against people in Ohio because of sexual orientation and documented three homicides last year, as well as 13 people who had experienced physical violence and 79 incidents of harassment.

“This is happening in places where we think we’re safe,” said Gloria McCauley, BRAVO executive director. “For these kinds of attacks to happen in those locations is very jarring, not only to the immediate victim, but for the rest of the community.”

Sam Schisler, chief marketing and promotions officer for Union Cafe and Axis Nightclub, said the violent incidents during the past week have burst the bubble of presumed safety for gays in areas such as the Short North.

“These events have shown that there is still hate out there,” he said. SOURCE

amanning@dispatch.com

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