Stabbing, Assault on Latino, 2 Friends Being Probed as Hate Crime
In what Cypress police suspect was a hate crime, four to six gang members with shaved heads and swastika tattoos hit a Latino over the head with a beer bottle and stabbed two of his friends in the back, one of them multiple times, outside a pool hall late Monday.
Police in the normally quiet city arrested two men Tuesday in the attack and called in the FBI, which investigates possible civil rights violations in hate-crime situations.
“There are issues that have arisen through our investigation that lead us to believe the incident was race-related,” said Cypress Police Sgt. David Birozy.
Police said the white gang members first attacked the Latino man, a 34-year-old Huntington Beach resident, then stabbed his two white friends in the back when they came to his rescue.
One of the friends, a 32-year-old San Pedro man, remained hospitalized Tuesday in fair condition in Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The Latino and the other victim, a 30-year-old Long Beach man, were treated and released.
Birozy refused to release the names of the victims because police don’t want the assailants still at large “to track them down.”
He also would not release the names of the assailants until police capture others involved in the assault. The two men arrested are being held on $250,000 bail each on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon and are expected to be arraigned Thursday, he said.
The assailants were described as white males, 18 to 25 years old, with shaved heads and tattoos that include swastikas.
Police and witnesses said the three victims, members of a softball team, went to the Cypress House of Billiards on Ball Road east of Valley View Street after a game Monday night. As they walked to their cars to leave shortly after 9 p.m., four to six young men attacked them, police said.
“At first we thought it might have started with some pushing or shoving,” said Cypress Police Sgt. Ron Dickson. “But it was just an unprovoked attack.”
Police said that the Latino man was attacked first and that his two friends, both white, were each stabbed in the back when they came to his rescue. The attackers fled in a white, older-model Dodge pickup, traveling west on Ball Road.
One witness, Shaun Sweeney, 20, of Cypress, said he tried to treat the most seriously wounded victim.
“I applied pressure to a guy who got stabbed in the back,” Sweeney said. “There was blood all over the place. He must have been stabbed seven times.”
Sweeney had seen the attackers inside the pool hall earlier. “You could tell they were looking for a fight,” he said. “They wanted trouble.”
Chris Harms, a Cypress House of Billiards employee, said, “Their arms were as big as my head. They had ‘White Power’ and swastikas tattooed on them.”
The Orange County Human Relations Commission is characterizing the attack as a hate crime, said Rusty Kennedy, the commission’s executive director. He said the attack was one of the more violent hate crimes in the past year.
The commission does not release midyear hate crime figures, but Kennedy said the county saw its first significant decline in such crimes last year. Victims reported 145 hate crimes and incidents last year, a 21% decline from 183 reports the previous year, according to the commission.
Kennedy said that white supremacist gangs are not typically confined to certain areas in the county. Violent incidents involving them, he said, have been reported from Huntington Beach to Laguna Hills to Anaheim.
Even so, he said, “This isn’t typical for Cypress. It’s a relatively quiet community.”
As Cypress police snapped pictures of the crime scene Monday night and placed yellow markers on fresh puddles of blood around the parking lot, neighbors spilled out of nearby homes, barefoot and wearing tank tops and shorts.
A pink sign reading “Family Atmosphere” hung cheerfully in the billiard hall’s window, prompting one neighbor to say: “We have crime and stuff, but nothing like this. This is crazy.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Victims of Hate
Hate crimes in Orange County decreased by 21% in 1997 from the previous year. African Americans were most victimized last year.
Hate Crimes and Incidents in O.C.
Some Victim Profiles
African American: 35
Source: Orange County Human Relations Commission
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