Tracy Manzer, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Nov. 3, 2006
Several suspects including at least three men who savagely beat three young women in a horrific hate crime attack Halloween night remained at large Friday.
The three victims — two of whom are 19 and the third 21 — agreed to sit down with a Press-Telegram reporter and discuss the painful attack in the hope that someone who knows the culprits will turn them in to police.
The young women asked to be identified by only their first names of Laura, Michelle and Lauren because they and their families fear for their safety. The assault, they said, was so savage they thank God they are alive.
‘A pack of hyenas’
The victims — along with throngs of other people — had gone to the 3800 block of Linden Avenue around 9:30 p.m. for a popular Halloween block party. As they walked up to an elaborate haunted house, they said, a group of about a dozen males began taunting them.
“They asked us, ‘Are you down with it?,’ we had no idea what that meant so we didn’t say anything and just walked by them up to the haunted house,” said Laura, “They were grabbing their crotches — we didn’t know if it was a gang thing or what.”
After making their way through a maze at the house, the three girls said they were back in the same spot where they were confronted and next to the same guys, who again taunted them. Still saying nothing, the three victims tried to walk away but were pelted with lemons and small pumpkins that split the seams on their costumes and left lumps and bruises on their bodies.
The taunts and jeers grew more aggressive, the victims recalled, as did the size of the crowd. Now females joined in, and everyone began saying “We hate white people, f — — whites!”
At this point, the girls began to run, but the pack of assailants ran ahead of them and kept them surrounded.
“It was like animals, like a pack of hyenas,” Michelle said.
She was trying to call 911 on her cell phone when the taunts began, but kept getting busy signals. She tried three times to call, she said, but never got through to an operator.
The suspects also began to gradually separate the girls, first by grabbing Laura by her long hair and yanking her backward.
She said she tried to fight off a group of girls who surrounded her and were clawing and hitting her, but then a man came up and slammed her in the head with a skateboard, knocking her unconscious.
“One of the witnesses told the police that he saw my legs go straight up in the air and I hit the ground face first,” she said, accounting for the bumps and bruises on her forehead and around her nose and eyes.
Her friends watched, horrified as the man raised the skateboard over his head and slammed her again as she lay on the ground. Others in the pack also began to hit and kick her motionless body.
Fearing their friend would be killed, the other two girls rushed to her aid.
Saved by a Samaritan
Lauren was the first at Laura’s side, and a group of people immediately jumped on her and began punching her in the face and back of the head simultaneously. Some kicked her in the back of knees, causing her legs to buckle. At one point, when they got her cell phone away from her, Lauren said she knelt down to try and retrieve the phone.
“Once I knelt down, there was too much of a force on top of me to get back up,” she said. “They were pounding on my back, on my head. . . They were kicking at the ball that was me.”
Lauren suffered 12 fractures in her face, including four to her eye socket, three to her nose and three to her cheek.
Doctors don’t yet know if she will regain all of her eyesight. Until the swelling goes down, they won’t know if she’ll require surgery to repair the many broken bones.
In all, the attack lasted about 10 minutes, and it ended only when a Good Samaritan driving by the melee stopped and physically blocked the battered girls bodies while yanking the assailants off the victims.
Maybe because he was also black, or because he was so tall and strong, the group broke up and scattered to several cars and fled, the victims said.
“If it wasn’t for that guy, honestly, I don’t think these two would be here today,” Michelle said.
Shortly after the attack, police arrested 10 juveniles on a charge of felony hate crimes, including counts for assault with a deadly weapon, battery and robbery.
Some of the 10 youths — nine girls and one boy ranging in age from 12 to 17 — were found wearing the victim’s earrings — which were ripped from their flesh — and had Lauren’s cell phone.
Others still at large
The victims were able to identify all 10 but said there are several others who participated who remain at large. They estimated that at least 25 people took part in the attack, while witnesses who live on the block told police the crowd looked to have between 30 and 40 people.
“I heard these thumping sounds and all these people yelling “F — — whites, f — — whites!” said one resident who witnessed the attack.
She spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing the assailants might return to her neighborhood and attack her and other witnesses.
“I have such mixed feelings,” she added. “I’m so ashamed that I didn’t try to run out there and stop them, but it was terrifying.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” she added. “I can’t even describe it. I’m still terrified.”