Police, bar owner dispute man's hate crime claims
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Ohio man says he is the victim of a hate crime, that he was attacked outside of a Calhoun County bar Sunday morning after he told patrons he is gay. The bar's owner said no one had a problem with his sexuality and he was apparently starting fights inside. Police said they are investigating the incident as a bar fight -- not a hate crime.
Steven Long, 36, of Cincinnati, said he was punched and kicked by four men, who also allegedly roughed up members of his family, outside of the Millstone Inn in Arnoldsburg. He gave a statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the alleged incident Thursday morning.
Long said he was visiting his mother in Calhoun County for the holiday weekend when they began looking for something to do together Saturday night.
His sister, mother and aunt decided to go to the Millstone Inn for a karaoke event, he said.
Long said after a long night of drinking, he offended a man, which led to an altercation. He did not want to go into detail about how he offended the man, but said he told the man he is gay.
Evangeline Darling, the bar's owner, said patrons complained that Long was trying to start fights inside the bar the entire time he was there. He slapped a woman's behind and her boyfriend got angry and punched him, she said.
She then kicked Long and the man out of the bar, she said.
"I walked him to the car and told him, 'stand here while I go get your mother,'" she said. "The other man left. He was long gone."
Long said he remembers the events differently after being kicked out of the bar.
Four men approached him and attacked him, he said. They called him gay slurs and employees at the bar locked him out, he said.
"The guy who hit me came back and three other guys started beating on me," he said. "They knocked me out of my senses. At this time, I didn't realize my mom was spit on. I was knocked out and going in and out of consciousness." Long said he picked up a standing cigarette ashtray and threw it through a small window in the bar to try to get back in.
"These guys were going to kill me. I couldn't get [the bar] to open the door so I panicked. I picked up a cigarette butt receptacle and broke a small, 1-by-1 [foot] window."
After the alleged altercation, Long said he sustained a broken nose, a broken foot, knots on his forehead, facial scrapes, bruises to his legs and back, a swollen jaw and two black eyes.
Darling said there weren't four men attacking Long outside the bar. She said he was involved in multiple altercations as people were leaving the bar because he was trying to pick a fight "with everyone." His family was shoved around trying to break them up, she said. Once everyone was gone, she said, he remained outside the bar trying to get back in and harassing bartenders.
"At this point there was not a soul in the bar or outside," she said, explaining that everyone had already left the bar.
Most of his injuries came from falling inside the bar after he did get back inside, she said. That's when bartenders walked him to his car and then held the door shut on him again, she said.
Long said he remembers blacking out after the alleged attack outside and when he woke up, he was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.
He said his mother was stepped on while trying to break up the alleged attackers and his 70-year-old aunt injured her elbow when she was knocked to the ground. His aunt underwent surgery Wednesday, he said.
West Virginia State Police Trooper J.E. Kincaid said there is not enough evidence to call the incident a hate crime. He said the altercation was not premeditated because Long is gay, but because of his actions while in the bar.
"It just didn't start because the man was homosexual," Kincaid said.
He was too intoxicated to give police a description of his attackers, Kincaid said.
Long said he admits he was intoxicated, but said he blacked out from the alleged attack and does not remember the attackers' faces.
"I would say there was premeditation. I told one person I was gay and then it was well known throughout bar. It spread within half an hour and then all kinds of homophobic names were being thrown at me," he said.
Darling said her bar does not have a problem with gay clientele. She said Long has been to the bar many times over the years and everyone knows he is gay.
"We have plenty of gay customers, they sit and make out at the bar and make out and we have to tell them to quit. Not because they are gay, it's not even proper for a straight couple to do that," she said. "We had a gay bartender who worked here for eight years. We don't have a problem with gay people."
Long said he wants to tell his story to prevent a similar incident happening to someone else.
"You read this stuff, but you never think it could never happen to your family," he said.
Trooper Kincaid said the incident remains under investigation and no arrests have been made.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.