A man who was assaulted by a crew of toughs outside a local East Baltimore liquor store claims he was attacked because of his orientation.
"I was just beaten in my face. Nothing was taken. No words were exchanged before the incident," Kenni Shaw (pictured) said. "So to me, I think it was a hate crime."
Shaw, a 30-year-old gay man, had made a quick run to the liquor store at the intersection of East Hoffman and North Rose streets around 9 p.m Monday evening.
After purchasing medication, Shaw briefly talked with the clerk before heading back home. Shortly after leaving, he was unexpectedly punched from behind and the vicious attack began. Four others quickly joined in.
"I was pinned down by punches," Shaw said. "It was so hard that I felt my lip and side face swell up immediately. I was trying to talk to these guys, but they weren't letting me talk."
Eventually, someone from the store came outside to see what was happening and Shaw's attackers fled. Still conscious and in extensive pain, Shaw managed to make it inside his home, where he called his mother.
"I can't even describe that moment for me. I thought my world was ending," Sheila Shaw told The Baltimore Sun. "No parent wants to get that phone call. The tone of his voice ... I thought, 'He's strong enough to make the phone call, but I'm probably going to lose my son.'"
Shaw suffered a bloodied and swollen face and head; his knees and elbows were scraped.
Fortunately, doctors at John Hopkins Hospital told him that nothing was fractured in the attack. And by yesterday, Shaw's swelling had decreased by 50 percent. But in a neighborhood where he's heard comments from other men about "faggots on the block," and where he stands out as a 6-foot man with dyed blonde hair and a career path as a hairstylist, Shaw maintains that homophobia lead to the attack.
"This needs to be spoken to because somebody needs to take a stand," he said. "Hate crimes happen every day."
Investigators have yet to determine if this was a hate crime; however, Baltimore Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said that if suspects are identified and apprehended, officers will talk with the state attorney's office to see if Shaw's beating was biased in nature.
Until then, Shaw says he has received encouragement for speaking up.
"I'm glad I could share my story and people could empathize with the story, because I'm getting a lot of feedback from people who have been through it or who have had family members who have been through it," he said. "I'm glad I could be a spokesman, because a lot of people don't make it through situations like this."