Gay advocates gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of El Paso Tuesday night in response to the recent brutal beating of Lionel Martinez, 15, outside of a gay nightclub. They said their goal was to improve communication with the El Paso Police Department.
"I should be able to stay in my gay community and not be scared," Sarah Martinez said. "I've seen this happen for several months and it's just horrible. Why would you come into our area just to start something like that we're not doing anything. We're not going straight people bashing. It's just not right."
Sarah Martinez witnessed the beating and said she tried to help her friend, Lionel Martinez. Even though Lionel Martinez is not gay, Sarah Martinez insists it was a crime motivated by hate. Sarah Martinez said Lionel Martinez was assaulted outside of a gay club and the group beating him up yelled gay slurs.
But the police department said the crime was gang-related.
"They did ask me if my brother was gay and as soon as I said 'no' to the police department, that's when they started asking me where my brother was from," Deanna Martinez, Lionel's sister, said. "Just because he has a bald head and because of his tattoos. I have tattoos and i'm not from no gang."
The lone police lieutenant at he meeting would not go into specifics about the case because it's an ongoing investigation, but many of the people present said they were shocked a police officer showed up at all to the meeting.
The officer told the group the department is constantly working to improve relations within the community, but that it's also up to others to help curb these sorts of crimes.
"This is a high profile case, and for awhile it's going to calm down, and then it's going to pick back up," Lt. Frank Hernandez said. "But as soon as it starts picking back up, it's up to each one of you to assist us."