Hate Crime Bills
Boys will bash boysBY BRETT BURSEY
When Ron went to Rock Burger on the strip in Myrtle Beach last April, he knew it was a rough joint. But he knew several of the band members playing there and the club's bouncer, and wasn't expecting any trouble. The place was crowded when Ron's friend Ed got a pitcher of beer at the bar and accidentally bumped into somebody's stool.
"The guy had a shaved head, a mohawk, a goatee like a billy goat and tattoos all over," Ron would later describe him. "He looked at my friend and said, I'll bust you up, motherfucker.'"
Ron got the bouncer, and things cooled off.
The 34-year-old Charleston native was surprised by what happened later out back, where Ed had made the mistake of parking in an unlit lot.
"We weren't flaming queens," he said. "I don't think we looked or did anything that sent the message that we were gay."
When they went to leave, they realized they weren't alone. "I saw the guy with the bald head coming toward us," Ron said. "He had brass knuckles. I started running back to the bar, and someone grabbed me from behind and began hitting me.
"Someone was screaming I'm gonna kill you faggot,' while they were hitting me. I was hit with a board and dragged across the pavement.
"I don't remember anything else."
A band member found them after seeing a foot sticking out of the shed where they dump trash. It was Ron's foot.
When Ron woke up, there was a body on top of him. Ed's face and chest had been slashed up, and there was blood everywhere. "I thought he was dead," Ron said.
A woman called 911 and Ron's roommate.
Ron was still lying on the pavement bleeding when his roommate got there 30 minutes later. "Why the hell is he still lying in the street," the roommate yelled.
Ron had told the ambulance crew that he had HIV and, in spite of being "suited up as if they were handling radioactive waste," the crew was afraid to touch him. At the roommate's insistence, Ron was finally taken to the emergency room.
Ron suffered three broken ribs and needed nearly 70 stitches to close the wounds in his face.
The next day, Ron talked to Detective Robert Starr of the Myrtle Beach Police Department. "I was doped up, and he was showing me these little Xeroxed pictures and asking me to identify who beat me up," Ron said, "I couldn't have recognized my mother from those pictures."
After five months of not hearing anything from the police, Ron tracked down the names of his assailants on his own. He believes they were members of a local biker gang that scare even the cops. The bald guy has a reputation for hurting people.
When Ron called Starr to tell him he had probably found his assailant, the detective said the biker had been among the pictures Ron had been shown. "He told me I could only look at a set of pictures once," Ron said.
Starr, who was slated to leave the department, said his replacement would be in touch. No one ever called.
Ron waited several months before calling the police to see how the case was coming.
"They told me that the other guy that was assaulted had wanted to drop it and they figured that I did too," Ron said. "The case had been closed."
The Myrtle Beach police have never considered what happened to Ron a hate crime.
Officer Frank Daniels said he instructed Starr to ask the victims whether it was a hate crime assault. "Det. Starr asked both victims, and they said [the fight] was over where they were sitting."
Daniels says the case is still open, but another officer volunteered that the prospects of solving it are "low."
Ron denies that the police ever asked him whether it was a hate crime. "If they had asked me if my beating was a hate crime I would have said, My Lord, yes!"
While Ron waits for justice, Attorney General Charlie Condon is trying to convince the legislature that gays do not need to be protected by including them in hate crime legislation he is backing.