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Gay man charged in Midtown assault
An Atlanta man was arrested Jan. 15 in the violent attack on a Midtown couple that caused one man to be thrown into oncoming traffic on Juniper Street last March.
Atlanta police arrested Diego Ernesto Ramirez, 23, for “Battery Substantial Physical Harm.” Ramirez has a prior arrest for battery from May 2013. The arrest follows a monthlong GA Voice investigation into the Atlanta Police Department’s handling of hate crimes committed against the LGBT community.
The Midtown attack occurred on March 7, 2014, when the couple walked to the intersection of 11th and Juniper streets, in front of LGBT-favorite restaurant Joe’s On Juniper. The suspect jumped out of a car and called the couple, who was holding hands, “faggots,” then punched one of the men in the back of the head and pushed him into oncoming traffic. The victim suffered bloodied hands from the fall but no major head wound; he declined medical treatment.
The incident was caught on Midtown Blue public safety force security cameras, and the victims recorded cellphone video of the suspect, the driver of the car and the license plate.
The GA Voice first reported the incident in a Dec. 10 story after reviewing police reports of the 12 hate crimes committed against the LGBT community in 2014. At the time, only one of the 12 crimes had been solved, and the LGBT liaison unit was notified in only half the incidents, in violation of the Atlanta Police Department’s Standard Operating Procedure. An APD spokesperson said the department was updating its SOP to ensure the LGBT liaison unit is notified immediately in all future such cases.
VICTIM’S BOYFRIEND ANGERED WITH APD’S HANDLING OF THE CASE
Bryan Long, executive director of the progressive political group Better Georgia and the victim’s boyfriend, told the GA Voice shortly after the arrest that he and his partner were brought into Atlanta police headquarters for a photo lineup, following a tip from someone who claimed to know the identity of the suspect and contacted Crime Stoppers following media coverage of the incident. Crime Stoppers set a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect.
The two positively identified the suspect and were told by the APD that police went to his home but he wasn’t there
Long also says the tipster claimed the driver and passenger had “an on and off relationship for awhile and it’s filled with violence,” and that he hopes the driver is brought to justice as well.
“There were two people involved in this attack, not just one,” Long says. “And the driver of the car lied to the police initially saying he didn’t know the passenger. Now we know that that’s not true. So I’m looking forward to hearing more about this and their relationship as we move forward.”
Long did not mince words when grading the Atlanta police’s handling of the case.
“I’m disappointed that it took 10 months and I’m disappointed that over the past two weeks that the police have not been more proactive. I’ve had to push every step of the way to keep the Atlanta Police Department focused on this,” he says.
Long says he’s not just worried about himself and his partner, but also others in the LGBT community who have found themselves in a similar predicament.
“I’m concerned about the gay community in Atlanta and I believe that there’s a lot of talk from the police department that they’re focused on these types of crimes but it’s difficult to see the action when the only two resolved cases of hate crimes from last year received a great deal of media attention,” he says.
“I’m worried about the cases that haven’t been solved and didn’t get the media attention. If the standard now is that you have to get the gay media in Atlanta to write about your crime for it to be solved, then that’s the wrong standard and that needs to be changed.”
The APD did not return a request for comment.
Diego Ramirez. (Courtesy Fulton County Sheriff’s Department)