Gay teen beaten by mob at gas station claims ‘hate crime’ in attack

April 18th, 2011 by Staff

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) – A Rock Hill teenager who was viciously beaten by a group of people at a convenience store over the weekend, says he was the victim of a hate crime.

19-year-old Joshua Esskew was attacked at the Spot Convenience Store on 999 South Cherry Road early Saturday morning by a group of at least eight men, according to investigators.

Esskew told WBTV’s Trent Faris that he believes he was targeted for the attack because he is a homosexual. Esskew said that he was at the gas station with a friend, getting a drink, when the attack happened.

He believes that people knew he was homosexual because of the way he was walking or carrying himself.

During the interview, Esskew said he’s been honest about his sexuality since he was 13-years-old, but has never been the victim of a violent attack like this before.

Esskew says when he was walking to the store, someone yelled a derogatory homosexual comment at him and he turned around and asked if they were talking to him. When he turned back around, he says someone hit him in the back of the head with a 40-ounce malt liquor bottle.

Deputies say as Esskew defended himself from his attacker, several other men ran to the scene of the fight and joined in the attack.

“A group of approximately 8 males hit and kicked [Esskew] while [he] was on the ground,” deputies said. Esskew said he was knocked to the ground and couldn’t see his attackers, but he was kicked and punched by the group.

Esskew’s friend, who was in the car when the attack happened and didn’t see the attack, told deputies that he saw a red car with some of the attackers driving away from the gas station. Esskew was found on the ground bleeding from his head and mouth, and had swelling around his right eye and lips.

Esskew went to Piedmont Medical Center where he spent the night, and was released on Sunday.

When Esskew spoke to WBTV on Friday, he had a bruise on his right-eye, which had broken blood vessels. He said that he had cuts on his head from the attack and had bleeding on his brain.

WBTV spoke with Lieutenant Mike Baker with the York County Sheriff’s Office about the attack.

“In South Carolina, we do not have an enhancement of penalties for what might be deemed a ‘hate crime’,” Baker said Friday. “We are investigating this as the very serious and violent assault that it was.”

According to the report, two of the attackers walked near a surveillance camera and deputies released images in hopes of being able to identify the men.

One of the suspects was a passenger in the vehicle shown in the video, and deputies want to identify the female driver of that vehicle. Baker says the Sheriff’s Office is seeking charges of Assault and Battery by a Mob.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for any information that could help identify the subjects involved in this attack, persons with information can call the Sheriff’s Office at 803-628-3059 or, if they wish to remain anonymous, they can call the Crime Stoppers tip-line at 1-877-409-4321.

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