Collier County Sheriff's deputies are investigating the brutal and possibly gang-related beating of two gay men on a road in rural Immokalee September 21 as a possible hate crime, a spokesperson confirmed to NBCMiami.
Good friends Manuel Galan, 27, and Cirildo Soliz, 21, who are openly gay, say five or six men yelled slurs while assaulting them Wednesday as they walked down Carson Road near Eden Avenue.
“It was right in the middle of the street,” Galan told the Naples Daily News. “People were walking all around us. No one stopped. No one did anything. It hurts me, I knew some of the people.”
"'F------ f------!'" the pair told deputies the men yelled repeatedly after jumping from a vehicle that pulled up next to them as they walked, according to the police report.
Manuel and Cirido told police that they were punched repeatedly on their faces and bodies before both were thrown to the ground, where they were kicked as well as punched.
All the time, they told police, their assailants continued to call them derogetory names for homosexuals.
Soliz told responding deputies that once the kicking stopped, one of the assailants pointed a finger at him and said, "I'm going to kill you and I know where you live," according to the police report.
“They just don’t like gay people, so they attacked us,” Galan told the Daily News. He said he recognized some of the attackers because he is friends with their mothers.
Bloodied and bruised, Manuel and Cirido declined medical treatment, the police report said.
The pair have lived in Immokalee for most of their lives and have been subjected to slurs, they told the Daily News, but had never been physically attacked before.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office believes the men are related to a local gang, Brown Pride, the News reports.
A sCCSO spokesperson said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney's Office will ultimately determine whether the assault will be prosecuted as a hate crime, which carries stiffer penalties.
Galan, meanwhile, told the News last week that he hadn't left his home since the incident.
“I’m scared to walk out the front door,” he said. “In case someone sees me, alone, they can do more damage.”