A gay couple says a group of teens attacked them in Northwest D.C. on Sunday after referencing monkeypox and using an anti-gay slur. Police say they’re investigating hate as a potential motive.
The couple was walking down Seventh Street toward a bus stop in the Shaw area on Sunday afternoon when they encountered a group of teens, one of the victims said. One of the teens called the couple “monkeypox,” followed by a slur. Then the attack began.
“One of them comes up to me and punches me in the jaw, giving me a gash right here that needed about three stitches,” Antonio, one of the victims, said. He asked News4 not to use his last name or show his face.
He said he was in shock in the moments after the attack.
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“I started noticing that I’m covered in blood. I didn’t realize how bad my lip was until other people saw it. I thought it was just, you know, a cut on my face,” Antonio said.
He shared photos of a wound to his upper lip and blood stains on the shirt he had been wearing. Drops of blood could still be seen on the sandals he wore Tuesday. Antonio said his boyfriend was bruised.
The couple filed a report with the Metropolitan Police Department, which said in a statement, “This case remains under investigation and it is being investigated as potentially motivated by hate/bias.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday evening that she was "extremely disturbed by the reported hate crime."
Antonio said he’s upset as he recovers.
“The first moment, I was just angry and I was just like, ‘What kind of ignorance is this?’” he said.
He said he had heard slurs before but never experienced anything like this.
“I’m not shocked by it. I am – I think it’s been a buildup over the last couple of months and years of conversations we’ve had about LGBTQ people,” he said. “It can happen here.”
News4 spoke with an emergency physician last month about the stigma surrounding monkeypox. Dr. Adam Brown, of ABIG Health, said he feared an attack would occur. He reminded people that the LGBTQ community has repeatedly faced violence and the threat of violence.
“We also have the potential of violence against those communities that are stigmatized — that happened in HIV and AIDS. I’m afraid we may see some of that now,” he said.
Police said they’re still seeking suspects in the assault.
Antonio said he’s angry that he’s lost a sense of security.
“Walking around there now, just, you know, always feeling like you gotta watch your back,” he said.