ST. CHARLES, Mo. – A 29-year-old man says he and his boyfriend were badly beaten at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles over the weekend because they are gay. Investigators are looking into allegations of a hate crime.
The victims were treated at area hospitals and released but, as of Monday, were still hurting and still scared.
“I think about it a lot, especially with my boyfriend. He took a real beating for no reason,” said the victim, who asked not to be identified. “It felt pretty helpless. It was pretty scary.”
The man said they were at the casino with friends and family. His boyfriend had too much to drink and he was taking him out to their car in the parking garage around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
A man in another group going into the casino faked like he was going to hit them.
“They saw me with my arms wrapped around him and that’s why they did that (fake hitting) motion and said (anti-gay slur),” the victim said. “Obviously, when they said that, everything after that was out of hate, so it’s clearly a hate crime.”
The victim confronted the man and at least two people viciously beat him and his boyfriend, he said. His injuries include a fractured nose and eye-socket, which will need surgery. His boyfriend was knocked unconscious and will likely lose several teeth.
“As I’m crawling over to him, I’m begging them, ‘Please stop. Please stop. We’re done.’ Then they hit me in the stomach, I say, ‘please, we’re done, we’re done.’ They say, ‘(profanity) right, you’re (profanity) done.’”
There is surveillance video of portions of the fight but whether this is a hate crime is not yet clear, according to St. Charles Police.
“There’s a dispute as to what type of language was used back and forth,” said Lieutenant Tom Wilkison, St. Charles Police Department. “At this time, we don’t have anything to support that the two people got beaten up or targeted because of their sexual orientation.”
The investigation is still open. Police are still gathering evidence to take to the county prosecutor, who will decide on charges. The victim says multiple witnesses heard the anti-gay slurs.
“How do we go anywhere and feel safe if we get attacked there, especially someplace like Ameristar, who should have top-notch security. If it happens there, it could happen anywhere,” he said.
Under Missouri’s hate crime law, the offense could jump from a Class E to Class D felony, with a bump in prison term from a possible four years to seven years behind bars.
Ameristar released the following statement:
“The safety and security of our guests and team members are among our highest priorities, and we have a robust security and surveillance presence throughout our property. We have zero-tolerance for those who commit acts of violence or intolerance and are working closely with law enforcement in their investigation. Due to the ongoing police investigation, we are unable to provide additional details on this matter.”