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Police potentially looking into 'hate crime'

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    Bretz nightclub, 2012 Adams Street, is pictured Thursday, December 21, 2017 in Toledo.

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    Thomas Wilcox, 45, said he was robbed and attacked on Dec. 22 as he was leaving Bretz nightclub.

Toledo police said they have identified a suspect potentially responsible for an assault outside Bretz nightclub that is now being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Thomas Wilcox, 45, told police he was walking downtown on Adams Street after leaving Bretz, a popular gay club, shortly after midnight Dec. 22. He was headed toward Georgjz’s Fine Food & Spirits where his husband, Karl Wilgus, was waiting for him. He was attacked, and his iPhoneX was stolen. He said he suffered a fracture at the base of his skull, a fractured nose, a black eye, and a concussion.

A police report dated Dec. 22 detailed Mr. Wilcox’s account of the attack but did not mention the homophobic slurs Mr. Wilcox said he was called. Under a section of the report titled “Hate Bias Type” the report said, “Not Reported.”

Mr. Wilcox said he is frustrated that homophobic epithets uttered at him were not mentioned in the police report. He admitted he was intoxicated and concussed after the assault, but was emphatic he told the responding officers and detective about the slurs.

Toledo police this week said officers know of the attacker’s supposed use of slurs — even if the original report did not reflect that knowledge. They’re now investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Officers have a suspect and the detective on the case is working on bringing that person in for questioning, said Sgt. Kevan Toney, the Toledo Police Department’s spokesman.

Mr. Wilcox said he is pleased that the incident will now be investigated as a potential hate crime.

Under Toledo municipal law,  an incident is characterized as a hate crime if it was motivated by race, religion, color, sex, handicap, age, or a “person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity.”

Toledo’s ordinance only applies to misdemeanors, said Jeffrey Lingo, criminal division chief of Lucas County prosecutor’s office.

Ohio does not have a stand alone hate crime statute based on sexual orientation. The state only carries an ethnic intimidation statute which recognizes a hate crime by reason of race, color, religion or national origin.

The prosecutor’s office adheres to state law. Felonious assault carries a sentence of 2-8 years in prison, Mr. Lingo said, but the city ordinance would not apply to an assault charge. Therefore, under state law, Mr. Wilcox’s case could not be prosecuted as a hate crime.

“This is one thing the [state] legislature needs to address,” Mr. Lingo said.

Despite trying to cope with the physical and emotional repercussions from the assault, Mr. Wilcox said he will not “run and hide in a corner.” 

“If I don’t turn my tragedy into a benefit for the community I’m like the people in this world that don’t care about anyone but themselves.,” he said. “If me being a survivor of a hate crime can turn into protection for the community that’s a win-win.”

Contact Javonte Anderson at janderson@theblade.com419-724-6065, or on Twitter @JavonteA.

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