Florida Keys

A gay man says he was the victim of a hate crime in Key West. Police say otherwise.

Key West police called the crime a simple battery.
Key West police called the crime a simple battery.

A 54-year-old Key West man says he was attacked after leaving a Duval Street bar because he is gay.

But so far, police aren’t buying the claim. No witnesses were found and there are no suspects.

“Detectives are investigating,” said Alyson Crean, Key West police spokeswoman.

Michael V. Hunter this week posted on Facebook photos of his swollen face, writing at 4:21 Aug. 15, “Yes, it is true that I was the victim of a hate crime. I am grateful to the KWPD for finding my dog. I never imagined that it could happen here....Molly is home and we will heal from this unthinkable assault here in Key West.”

The claim of a hate crime rang loudly through social media in Key West, a city that relies on tourism.

He had lost his dog, Molly, sometime during the attack.

“She reluctantly ran after the attackers threatened to ‘kill me and my fag dog.’” Hunter posted.

Key West police disagree that it was a hate crime.

“At this time, this report is being classified as a simple battery due to Hunter’s lack of memory regarding the incident and inconsistent statements. Therefore there is insufficient evidence that shows it was a hate crime,” wrote Officer Jose Fernandez.

In the report, Hunter says only one man attacked him — someone wearing a white tunic who had been at the same event he had at the 801 Bar on Duval. Hunter didn’t tell police anyone called him a gay slur or threatened his dog.

Hunter didn’t respond to a message for comment.

Hunter was at a memorial service held at the 801 bar at about 7 p.m. Aug. 14, and stayed for about 30 minutes, the police report states. He noticed a man wearing a white tunic outfit — “believed to be Muslim” in the crowd, he told police, who took the report at about 11 a.m. Aug. 15.

Hunter said he left and began walking home with his dog. On the way, the man in the white tunic attacked him, he said.

But he couldn’t remember much more than that, police reported.

“Hunter said the only thing he remembered was waking up somewhere in the city of Key West laying on his back looking up at the stars,” Fernandez wrote.

A passerby walking his dog helped Hunter get home. He didn’t immediately contact police.

The next morning, Aug. 15, Hunter said the same good Samaritan stopped by his home to check on him. Hunter asked him to text friends to tell them what had happened. The text began, “Harry was the victim of a hate crime; he is in bad shape.”

Hunter was treated at the scene by Key West Rescue and then taken to Lower Keys Medical Center. He had abrasions to the right side of his face, above his right eyebrow, forehead, temple, cheek and both left and right knees, police reported.

“Hunter seemed unsure of exactly what transpired after the memorial event,” Fernandez wrote. The officer asked Hunter if he had been drinking and he said no.

The police report was released Aug. 17 by police after FLKeysNews.com had requested it two days earlier, having only the victim’s last name and an Aug. 15 date to run through the system.

The delay was likely because it was reported after the fact, “which is why it didn’t show up in the time frame we searched,” Crean said.

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