San Francisco police said they are investigating a possible hate crime after two tourists from New York were pepper-sprayed Saturday night by a group of assailants yelling homophobic slurs.
The two men, both 28, were at a fast food restaurant in the city’s Fillmore District on Saturday about 7:30 p.m. when the incident began, said SFPD Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
One of the men was standing outside the restaurant at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Fillmore Street while his friend ordered food when two men began yelling homophobic slurs at him, Andraychak said. Soon after, police say, three other men jumped out of the car to join them.
When the man’s friend came out of the restaurant to check on him, the five assailants attacked, yelling more epithets and pepper-spraying both men before fleeing in a blue minivan.
The San Francisco Chronicle identified the victims as Neil Frias and Jeff White, both of New York City. The pair said they were visiting to attend the Folsom Street Fair, one of the city’s racier festivals.
In a Facebook post, Frias said the attackers were “telling us we are destroying the institution of family values.”
Both victims are now fine, Frias wrote, but he “was blind for about three hours.”
“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” Frias continued. “To think that people have so much hatred inside of them to target people."
Both men were treated and released at the scene.
Andraychak says SFPD’s Special Investigations Division, which handles hate crime investigations, will be leading the search for the attackers.