WASHINGTON — Police in D.C. are searching for suspects wanted in connection to a potentially bias-motivated attack in the Shaw neighborhood earlier this month.
According to a police report from the Metropolitan Police Department, two men were walking southbound on the east side of 7th Street Northwest when they were approached by suspects on August 7.
Both victims told police they were punched several times and called "monkey pox f******." Police say the suspects were last seen northbound on 7th Street.
Investigators say the remains under investigation and "is being investigated as potentially motivated by hate/bias."
One of the men, Robert, who asked us not to use his last name, says he and his partner were walking down the street and tried to ignore the group of about five boys and two girls.
"We started walking away, and after walking away a bit, I realized they were following us. So I turned around to see what was going on and one of them sucker punched me and then hit my partner, and then hit me again," Robert said.
Robert was bruised, his partner was bloodied and required a trip to the hospital and stitches.
The boys took off. The two girls in the group tried to apologize, but also left before police arrived, Robert said.
Police released surveillance photos of two suspects, asking for the public's help to identify them.
Anyone who may recognize the suspects in the photos is asked to contact police at 202-727-9099 or text the department's tip line at 50411.
Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted her support to the victims Tuesday.
"It is our collective responsibility to understand the role we each play in building a safer community for all who live in and visit D.C.," the mayor tweeted.
As monkeypox cases increase in D.C., the attack brings to mind instances of attacks targeting Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whatever the motivation, Robert says he and his partner have noticed more hate in recent months.
"It seems I've had more experiences with bigotry and homophobia this summer than I have in my entire life. And I grew up in Texas," Robert said.
Robert tells us he doesn't feel safe walking around town after the attack.
"Not at all. I wish I did," he said.
Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a campaign for victims of hate crimes to come forward, as instances of hate crimes surged nationwide.
From the brutal attack on an Asian American shop owner to homophobic slurs in Alexandria and the slashing assault on a D.C. trans woman, the FBI reported a big jump in reported hate crimes across the country in 2021.
"Nationally, we saw an increase of just over 1,000 incidents, it's about a 13% increase overall," Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division said in an interview in November 2021. "Specifically against Asian Americans, we saw a 72% increase. All too often these crimes go unreported."
You can report hate crimes at 1-800-CALL-FBI or at TIPS.FBI.GOV. You can report anonymously.
According to the most recent crime stat data from MPD, as of June 30, there have been 23 reports of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias in 2022.
Meanwhile, health officials in D.C. are urging residents to remain vigilant and not create a stigma around monkeypox. While monkeypox can spread to anyone, the majority of current cases in the District are in men who have sex with men.
“This is not a disease of the LGBTQ plus community," said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt with DC Health. "It’s important that we do not create stigma at this time, and we encourage individuals to be on the lookout for symptoms.”
Monkeypox is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can spread during intimate physical contact between people, including sex, kissing, and hugging. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or when a person touches fabrics, such as bedding and towels, used by a person with monkeypox.
Initial symptoms of monkeypox often include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash and lesions on the skin. Although the majority of cases do not require hospitalization, monkeypox is dangerous, highly contagious, and uncomfortable.