A young man remains in critical condition after being severely beaten outside a gay night club last weekend. Thursday, police detained a 16-year-old boy for the beating and said the assault was gang-related and not a hate crime.
Gay rights advocates disagree and accuse the El Paso Police Department of failing to classify the crime as a hate crime.
Police said the investigation into the beating of 22-year-old Lionel Martinez found the suspects were gang members.
Police also said the assault does not meet the criteria of a hate crime because it wasn't motivated by a bias against gays.
National and local gay rights advocates said it doesn't matter if the suspects are in a gang. What should matter, according to them, is that Martinez was targeted because he was coming out of a gay club.
"They have not worked well with the gay community almost to the point that they're a very bigoted organization," said Daniel Rollings, chair of the El Paso chapter of Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays.
Rollings said hate crimes against gays are unreported because El Paso police officers are not properly trained.
"I don't believe the El Paso Police Department has ever done their sensitivity training that they swore they were going to do," he said.
Police spokesman Det. Mike Baranyay said about week after the Chico's kiss incident about two years ago -- when an El Paso police officer threatened to arrest a young man because he was gay -- all police officers underwent sensitivity training.
Baranyay said the training is an online course that officers have taken in 2009 and last year.
"The El Paso Police Department also conducts Cultural Diversity Training and Ethics Training in accordance with State Regulations," Baranyay said in a statement. "Our Department is well trained in dealing with people from various cultures and backgrounds."
Rollings said El Paso police have been unresponsive to the safety needs of the gay community and says not classifying the crime as hate crime is ridiculous.
"This would be a perfect example of why they need to do that," Rollings said.
The FBI continues to investigate the Martinez assault as a civil rights case. A hate crime meeting is being held by local gay rights advocacy groups at 7 p.m. Tuesday at a location across the street from The Old Plantation (OP) night club. Police were invited but Baranyay said police will not be attending.
"The El Paso Police Department has always encouraged citizens who feel they have not received professional police services to come forward and voice their concerns so that they can be investigated and addressed," Baranyay's statement to ABC-7 stated.
Police may be contacted online here through the city's general "contact us" page.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen may be emailed directly at ChiefOfPolice@elpasotexas.gov
Related Links:Link:El Paso Police Dept. Statement On Sensitivity TrainingWoman Says Police Didn't Classify Her Beating Outside Gay Club As Hate CrimeLink:Teen Detained In Beating Outside Gay Club; Police Say Assault Was Gang RelatedLink:El Paso Police Statement Regarding Hate Crime Allegations