Helmut Muller Estrada was on his way home after a day at the beach when he saw four men brutally attack a gay couple after Miami Beach's gay pride parade, punching them repeatedly in their faces and knocking them to the ground.
Although Muller Estrada, 29, didn't know the couple, he rushed to their defense. He tried to help the men as they lay on the ground bleeding, then ran after the attackers to keep them from getting away.
"Everything happened so quick," Muller Estrada said. "I was so angry and I just wanted to defend these guys regardless of their sexual orientation. It doesn't matter."
Muller Estrada's efforts landed him in the hospital with a gash on the back of his head that required four stitches. But he said he doesn't regret trying to intervene. "I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Miami Beach officials agree. On Wednesday evening, the City Commission gave Muller Estrada a city medallion, an award that recognizes acts of heroism and significant contributions to the city.
"Today we have a resident of our city who was a Good Samaritan and who showed true acts of bravery and heroism that day," said Commissioner Michael Góngora, who presented the award. "This is somebody that saw two individuals being attacked and felt the need to step up and do the right thing and in doing so he was hurt himself."
The attack occurred on April 8 around 7:40 p.m. following Miami Beach's annual gay pride celebration.
Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov were leaving a bathroom near Ocean Drive and Sixth Street when Logunov and a stranger bumped into each other, according to the arrest reports. The stranger and three companions called the couple "maricones," an anti-gay slur in Spanish, and started punching them in the face.
Muller Estrada, a South Beach resident from Nicaragua, was leaving the beach with a friend when he saw the attack. He chased after the four men, but they surrounded him and knocked him out. Muller hit his head on the concrete as he fell, leaving a pool of blood on the pavement. Then the attackers ran toward the beach.
The four attackers, identified by police as Juan Carlos Lopez, 21; Luis M. Alonso Piovet, 20; Adonis Diaz, 21; and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, 21, turned themselves in to Miami Beach police two days later. They have been charged with aggravated battery.
The state attorney's office will decide whether to classify the attack as a hate crime, which could carry a more serious penalty. Prosecutors will announce their charging decision at a May 10 arraignment, said spokesman Ed Griffith.
Following the award presentation on Wednesday, Logunov said he believes the attack was a hate crime. "I think it's very obvious," he said, adding that the attackers appeared to target the couple because of "our happiness, our outfits, our affection for each other."
Chalarca said he believes Muller Estrada saved his life. "We came to support him because he was there for us," he said. "He's totally a hero and for us it means a lot."