Police look for local man in possible hate crime beating

January 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Police are looking for a Bay Area man suspected of a hate crime. He is wanted for giving a guy a beating in a bar. The question for police is: was it because the victim is gay?

There is a $50,000 warrant out for Cole White. Police say he is responsible for attacking a man simply because of his sexual orientation.

"I have bruises and cuts up and down my sides as well as my face, along with a broken nose," says Chris, the victim.

Chris didn't want to be identified on camera, but he did agree to tell ABC7 what happened to him just after midnight Sunday morning, in downtown Santa Cruz.

"Right in front of the Blue Lagoon, the person started yelling 'fag' at me," says Chris.

The Blue Lagoon is a popular gay-friendly bar. Chris says he was near the bar when Cole White started aggressively yelling profanities at him. Chris says he took a photo of White on his cell phone, which made the suspect even angrier.

"I turned to the person and I said, 'You know what? I am gay, I'm walking down the street, and I'm sorry you have a problem with it.' And he started to come at me," says Chris.

White's friends apparently held him back and Chris went into the bar. Moments later, White also walked into the Blue Lagoon. Witnesses say he violently punched and kicked Chris even after he fell to the ground.

"This is a very disappointing thing to hear that in our community, in this day and age, that we would have this kind of issue, this kind of intolerance, that someone would be attacked exclusively because of their sexual orientation. It is inexcusable and unconscionable," says Zach Friend with the Santa Cruz Police Department.

When asked if he personally thought it was a hate crime, the Blue Lagoon manager, Fred Friedman, says, "I personally do not think it's a hate crime."

He calls what happened this weekend, a basic bar room brawl. In fact, he says Chris was also acting aggressively. "It went from Mr. White being attacked outside by the reported victim, to Mr. White inside then turning the tables on the reported victim and trying to get back at him."

"I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. I was by myself, I was walking down the street and somebody verbally accosted me and then beat me up inside of a bar," says Chris.

White is no stranger to Santa Cruz police. He was arrested six times last year -- most of which were for public intoxication.