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Police investigate possible hate crime in Lawrenceville

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 12:03 a.m.

A man told Pittsburgh police that when he left a bar in Lawrenceville, three men called him a derogatory name and attacked him because he's gay.

“It is too early to determine if this is indeed a hate crime. There was a very offensive term used during the incident,” said Zone 2 Cmdr. Eric Holmes, whose district includes Lawrenceville.

To determine whether Sunday's incident is a hate crime, investigators will consult with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, Holmes said.

The victim, who identified himself as Ben Stoviak, told police he and his boyfriend left Remedy Bar on Butler Street about 2:40 a.m., and the men began yelling at them, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

Stoviak, 26, told police one of the men punched him in the face and kicked him several times in the face and head when he fell to the ground, Richard said.

A witness told police he saw a group of men standing over the victim and saw one of them kicking him, Richard said. The attackers drove away in a black Hyundai, the witness told police.

Stoviak refused medical attention at the scene, Richard said. Police said everyone involved was in Remedy before the assault.

In a Facebook post, Stoviak wrote that he went to the hospital after the attack.

“I don't ask you to cheer on my romantic and sexual lives,” Stoviak wrote. “I do, however, expect people not to act violently against one another because they do not share tastes and preferences.”

Stoviak said he couldn't talk while at work when reached by phone Monday.

Richard referred questions to Detective John Ficorilli, who said police are pursuing a lead. Late last night, police said detectives have identified a suspect and plan to charge him with simple assault.

Gary Van Horn, president of Delta Foundation, said the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group contacted Holmes to attend a community meeting in Lawrenceville on Oct. 18.

“It's a shame it has happened,” Van Horn said. “It does appear, at this point, this was motivated by hate.”

Van Horn said similar attacks against gay people have happened in Bloomfield and the South Side.

“It's not something that's prevalent, but unfortunately hate rears its face once in a while,” Van Horn said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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