Five Arrested in Anti-Gay Attack Against a South Carolina Teen

Joshua Esskew, 19, was at a local convenience store on April 9th in Rock Hill, South Carolina when he heard a gay slur directed at him.  There was an argument between Esskew and the man believed to have made the comment before he was struck in the head with a beer bottle.  Shortly after Esskew was hit, four other men joined in the attack, beating him severely. 

Released video surveillance at the convenience store led to the arrest of five suspects.  Each has been charged with assault and battery, carrying the possible prison sentence of up to twenty years.  The FBI is investigating this as a hate crime.

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said, “The decision whether to file a hate crime charge will be made after a full, fair review of the evidence, and in consideration of the state charges.”

Because this conflict arose from the verbal altercation in the wee hours of the morning, ignited by a gay slur, it is unlikely this case can be overlooked as a hate crime.  Without the initial homophobic comment directed toward Esskew, a conflict would have been avoided, following which he was struck in the head with a bottle.  That attack alone could’ve proven deadly.

The tips that came in as a result of the released video footage are a testament to the intolerance of hateful behavior by the community.  Not only were folks willing to put their voices out there to help, but their tips also led to the arrest of the five suspects.

South Carolina does not currently have a hate crime statute, so the hate crime investigation is conducted on a federal level. Perhaps this is an opportunity for their community to begin that conversation with their state officials.

Regardless as to whether the hate crime investigation is done at the federal level or not, the evidence points to a gay teen suffering a brutal gang beating in the middle of the night because some young men decided to harass him based solely on his assumed orientation.  There is something eerily Laramie about this case.  Would it be clearer if Esskew had died?  It is a hate crime. Period.  And it should be charged as one.

What do you think?  Do you think the five young men should be charged with a hate crime?

Related Stories: 

Father Kills Daughter’s Girlfriend and Her Mother: Is It a Hate Crime?

Death By Bullying: Another Teenage Suicide

Conservative Anti-Gay Areas Yield Higher Gay & Straight Teen Suicide Attempts


Photo By: Sylvar


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Tom Y.
Tom Y6 years ago

As I see it, the severity of the offense is all that`s required to throw the book at these perps and put them away for a long, long time. Kudos to Mr. Esskew for confronting his verbal assailant rather than simply taking the slur. That`s really where the altercation should`ve ended, but unfortunately, bullies like to win. Well, now they get to lose too.

`Hate crime` is a rather vague category and shouldn`t really be on the books. The law is the instrument to punish misbehavior, not to force some state expectation of behavior. Or opinion. Let the offenders` own actions be their undoing.

Get well soon, Joshua.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

It is a hate crime. Notice how they often have to act as a group when committing a hate crime? What does that say about these people? Thank you to everyone who helped identify these people.

Brenda Gilbert
Brenda G6 years ago

So sad that some people still feel the need to attack - verbally, physically or in any other way - anyone they perceive to be in any way different from themselves. When will we all realise that it is precisely the wonderful diversity of human expression that makes the world such an amazing place to live in. And when will we all realise that within that wonderful diversity we are also ALL ONE. What happens to one happens to all. By attacking others we are attacking ourselves. By loving others we are loving ourselves. I know which I prefer!!!

Bernadette P.
berny p6 years ago

I agree with Khaht Bliss...It just amazes me how it takes several people to engage in a "hate crime", its never just one on one, which would be a fair fight. It disgusts me!

May be we should also think about the ...politickly correctness laws that we have create...good thing .....especially for lawers.....but you will never FORCE people liking people that they dont want to!

Joy Jin
Joy J6 years ago

Horrible. I hope that guy's okay.

Norma V.
Norma V6 years ago

Homophobic and fear driven assailants...we are afraid to embrace our nature so we attack others. Use the tape in court as evidence.

Patricia A.
Patricia A6 years ago

South Carolina definitely is one state that needs to pass a hate crime statute. Unfortunately, my daughter lived there years ago, and in 1997 the last time she and I saw that state, a friend of my daughter's son was actually lynched because he was a black man married to a white woman with kids. It's sad to think Carolinans still follow that age old civil war flag. The man's mother told my daughter when the sheriff came to ask her questions, he would not even reciprocate by holding out his hand to shake her hand in her home. Sickening state and they should get out of the 1800's!

Ally T.
A P6 years ago

Charge the suspects with hate crime to the fullest extent. And bravo to those in the community who turned the suspects in.

Doug D.
Doug D6 years ago

I hope they all get the full 20 years!!!