Ten days after a 25-year-old gay man was attacked by presumed homophobes on South Beach, the LGBT community — including prominent leaders of local nonprofits such as Unity Coalition | Coalición Unida and the LGBTQ Advisory Committee for the City of Miami Beach — have rallied behind Luis Carlos Herrera to offer support in his time of need and healing.
Herb Sosa, director and CEO of UC|CU, and Paul Thomas, chairman of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, are assisting Herrera, a Chilean-born man living in Sweetwater on a year-long visa, who was the victim of a seemingly random attack in Miami Beach on Oct. 30.
Police are still searching for several suspects. According to a police report, Herrera and a female friend were walking westbound along Ninth Street, approaching Mega Pizza located at 865 Collins Avenue. Officers arrived at the Mega Pizza just after 1:00 a.m. that Saturday where witnesses said Herrera was attacked by a man and was given a bloody nose, among other serious injuries. Herrera said he accidentally brushed up against one of the male suspects, a person of color, who became aggressive and struck him several times causing the bloody nose. Surveillance footage shows the moment the fight broke out.
One witness said she tried to stand between the male suspect and Herrera, but then one of the female suspects grabbed her by her hair and knocked her to the ground. Miami Beach Fire Rescue responded and treated Herrera on the scene. He was later transported to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was hospitalized until his discharge on Nov. 3.
Herrera believes he was attacked because of his sexual orientation.
“I was celebrating my friend’s birthday at a gay bar called Palace, then we left and I started to hear the taunts of these guys treating me as the worst because of my sexual condition,” Herrera told local news stations NBC 6 and WSVN 7. “…When I tried to defend myself, I was beaten by five people and left on the floor unconscious.”
Herrera says things escalated to violence when he was punched in the face.
“Now I’m scared … I’m panicking about going out on the street and being beaten again … I live here in Miami, that’s what makes me the angriest and sad … I work with my image, I’m a dancer and a Zumba teacher,” said Herrera, who suffered facial fractures and brain bleeding.
Mitch Novick, owner of the Sherbrooke Hotel, said the attack “was a little too violent for [his] taste … It appeared as if he remained unconscious even after the police arrived,” Novick said.
Miami Beach police said crime scene officers were not able to immediately respond to the crime due to an active shooting scene that morning near 15th Street and Collins Avenue.
Speaking through a translator from his hospital bed the day of the attack, Herrera said he was beaten and nearly knocked unconscious, all because he’s gay.
“I have a cheekbone broken, all this because of a homophobic attack,” he said.
Herrera believes the group of three men of color and two females were indeed “homophobic, and I remember I told them to stop bothering me and teasing me. Then a person came over to me and kicked me in the face, and after that, I don’t remember anything,” Herrera said.
Surveillance video showed the victims’ friends trying to help, but there wasn’t much they could do. Herrera said he was knocked to the ground and repeatedly punched until the attacker just walked away, leaving him with severe injuries, including a broken nose and fractured face. He hopes the security footage video will help catch the man who has caused him so much pain.
“I would like justice and these guys arrested,” he said. “They should not be out and about, because they are a danger to society, because what happened to me could happen to another person.”
A friend of Herrera’s has set up a GoFundMe page for the Zumba instructor to assist with his finances while he recovers.
Paul Thomas, chairman of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee for the City of Miami Beach, said he is speaking with organizations about Herrera’s GoFundMe to help him while he’s recovering.
“I’ve been in communication with Carlos and we will research what type of supports are available within our community to assist him as he recovers from his injuries,” Thomas said.
Added Sosa, “On Friday, Oct. 30, Carlos Herrera was brutally attacked, beaten and left for dead by thugs on Ninth Street and Collins Avenue on South Beach on his way home from the Palace. Please help by giving generously today to his GoFundMe.”
Sosa continued: “ANY attack on an individual by a group of thugs is unacceptable. Bystanders filming a human being beaten unconscious, rather than seeking help or intervening, is inhumane and barbaric. ANY attack of this kind is disgusting, unjustified in any way, and simply the lowest form of humanity imaginable. This latest attack was on a young man who identifies as a Hispanic gay person. To introduce his perceived sexuality as any kind of explanation or justification, is just nauseating and irrelevant. A brutal crime like this has NO reasoning or justification.”
Sosa said Unity Coalition|Coalición Unida’s involvement and support of Herrera is “simply what we do and have been doing since 2002, and what needs to always be done — Support, Uplift and Lead our community — in the best and worst of times. I am personally overseeing that Carlos’ case gets the highest of priority — maintaining direct and daily communication with Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements’ office and team, as well as with Commissioners Michael Góngora and David Richardson and setting up a variety of support services he will need once he has physically healed. What the community can and should do is make sure this horrible attack does NOT go unpunished, downgraded, or dismissed as anything less than the unjustified brutal hate-driven attack by thugs on one unarmed human being, that it was.”
Herrera is grateful for the community support. He told Miami Gay News:
“Thank you very much to all who have supported me in this difficult time. I want to do justice for me and for all those whose human rights are taken from them simply because they are gay, lesbian, trans, queer, etc. LGTBQ+ persons are more than a community; for me, they are my family. Thank you for not leaving me alone.”
Officer Ernesto Rodriguez, public information officer for the Miami Beach Police Department, said, “Detectives are investigating the incident to include the events that transpired, which led to the altercation. Anyone with information is urged to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.”
When reaching Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.