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Charleston Police investigate assault as suspected hate crime

Victim said he’s overwhelmed by support after social media post
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Charleston Police Department said they are investigating a weekend downtown assault that sent a man to the hospital as a possible hate crime.

On Saturday at 2:30 a.m., police officers responded to Calhoun Street near King Street in reference to an assault, according to police spokesman Charles Francis.

A report states the victim had stopped to offer assistance to a man sitting on the sidewalk who seemed ill. Minutes later, a group of individuals approached and pulled the man away from the victim, police said. Police say the victim then followed the group of individuals in an effort to ensure that ill man was being cared for.

“While walking, two men from the group began yelling homophobic slurs at the victim,” Francis said. “The victim told the two men he was not confrontational, and didn’t want to fight, but the two men then approached and punched the victim multiple times.”

The victim said he was able to flee and subsequently called 911 for help.

Isaiah Drown, 21, says he was assaulted in part because of his sexual orientation. He says he had left night club Mynt after closing and stopped to help a bystander who appeared to be sick.

The police report states a group of men then showed up and began hurling homophobic slurs at Drown.

“I asked why? Why are you calling me that? Is it because I am bisexual?” Drown said, explaining how the confrontation escalated. “All of sudden I heard someone talking to my left and then I saw stars.”

Drown was punched multiple times, suffering a fractured nose and minor trauma to the face and brain. After being released from the hospital and sent home with a neck brace, Drown took to social media to share what had happened. He says the silver lining to all of this is the support he has received from social media.

“There are thousands of comments of people supporting me and saying they understand and that they have been in similar situations,” Drown said about the video he posted on TikTok. “When I posted the video I was really depressed. . . all of these people where telling me they love me, they support me, it was going to be okay and they are going to find the people. . . I felt, for once in my life, I wasn’t alone.”

The video has received more than 77,000 views and has been shared more than 3,000 times. He says he went from 50 followers on Friday to more than 6,000 today.

South Carolina does not have a hate crime law, but the City of Charleston does something similar. Drown says the initial incident may not have started a targeted attack against a member of the LGBT+ community, but he believes it qualifies as a hate crime.

“I don’t think they started with that intention but after they said that word and continued to say it after I expressly said that I am bisexual I think it became one after that point,” Drown said. “When it becomes violent, when those words are said, it’s hate speech.”

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said in a statement that the department is working to find the people behind the attack.

“Hate motivated crimes will not be tolerated in the City of Charleston. Although we cannot comment specifically about ongoing investigations, we can say that the City of Charleston has a Hate Intimidation Ordinance and will thoroughly investigate this incident,” Reynolds said. “During Pride Month, Charleston Police Department wants the LGBTQ+ community to know that the department supports them, and that prejudice precipitated violence will not be accepted.”

The Hate Intimidation Ordinance enhancement can add an additional 30 days in jail and an additional $500 fine to any municipal violations. It has been used twice in adult cases since it was enacted in 2018.

Drown, who moved to Charleston last year from Vermont, says this was his first time downtown or at a night club. However, despite the incident, he will still visit downtown albeit with extra precautions.

“You can’t live your life in fear. If you live in fear, you let them win,” Drown said. “I will bring some sort of protection and that’s what I have told people who have watched the TikTok, bring protection – a taser, pepper spray.”

He says attacks against the LGBT+ community continue to happen, and he hopes by telling his story, others will feel empowered to tell theirs. He says only by exposing the problem can progress be made in preventing future issues.

Police are asking anyone with information which could aid in the investigation is urged to call 843-743-7200 and ask to speak to the on-duty central detective.

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