Gersson Saavedra remembers very few details about the night he was attacked.
“I was at the pier over by Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan,” said Saavedra. “When we were leaving the event I fell behind my friends, Martin and Sunny.”
It was around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 that Saavedra’s friends tell him he was approached by two men.
“My friend said that these two guys asked me for a lighter,” said Saavedra.
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His friends told him the men then yelled homophobic profanities at him.
“By the time they like turned around, I was getting, you know, punched,” said Saavedra. “I was basically hitting the floor at that point.”
Saavedra was knocked unconscious, his attackers gone without a trace.
“First thing I remember when I woke on the hospital bed is that one of the doctors asked me if I was gay,” said Saavedra. “I was like, that's such a weird question to ask, but I said, 'Of course.' And he was like, ‘Okay, you were a victim of a hate crime.'”
The attack resulted in several injuries including a spinal cord injury, a fractured nose, and a fractured eye socket.
“You hear about these things like happening in the gay community, but you know, you can never kind of prepare or expect something like this to happen to you,” said Saavedra.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, in California, hate crimes surged 31% last year. Those involving sexual orientation made up over 15% of them.
While Saavedra has no words for his brutal attackers, he has one message for all those who have fallen victim to a hate crime:
“It's easy to kind of blame yourself, think could have prevented this, maybe by being less of yourself, but I would definitely say don't let anyone or even this type of situation dim your light,” said Saavedra. “Always, you know, just be yourself.”
Saavedra has a long road ahead to recovery. He is scheduled to have nose surgery next week and will be out of work for at least the next six weeks.
Saavedra’s family has created a GoFundMe to help with hospital bills.
San Diego Police have confirmed they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
If anyone has any information on the case you are asked to contact the police department.