James Garcia is still healing from the physical and emotional pain of a brutal attack.
“I have a total of 10 stitches,” Garcia said. “When I close my eyes, I can see this person’s face, hear his voice.”
He says he was attacked out of nowhere on Easter morning.
“I heard from the distance, from the ocean, someone screaming by himself, male,” Garcia said.
He was walking his dog at the time near his Fort Lauderdale condo.
"I turned around and before I could react, this person walked up to me and asked me, 'Are you gay?' and then punched me," Garcia said.
Too bloody to call for help, a neighbor helped him dial 911. He was taken to the hospital.
Fort Lauderdale Police confirmed they’ve arrested 36-year-old Maurice A Charles in connection with the attack. He's now facing aggravated battery charges.
“He asked the question. That was pretty obvious that he was targetting someone in the LGBT community,” said Garcia, who is gay himself.
Garcia said he’s sharing his story to raise awareness that crimes like this still happen.
“It’s important that we create a message around urgency to our elected officials, that crimes like this should not be ignored, that they should be tagged as what they really are: hate crimes,” Garcia said.
At this point, Charles is not currently facing a hate crime charge.
NBC 6 has reached out to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Broward State Attorney’s Office to find out whether that is something being considered in this case. We are still waiting to hear back.
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