By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"Party Boy Gaston." That's the name Cal State Fullerton student Gaston Alejandro Gastelum gives himself at his MySpace page, where he announces that he "just loves to have fun" and owns "a Bad Ass Fucking TV, 51-inch Big Screen HDTV Bitches." His heroes include Van Wilder, the suave National Lampoon movie character popular with girls.
"He's just like me," Gastelum writes.
He praises his father, because "even though he is real tough on me he made me into the great guy I am today."
Today, all that greatness might land Gastelum in a California prison; his relocation from the Delta Chi fraternity house would be involuntary.
On Aug. 9, Fullerton police detectives arrested the 21-year-old business major for conduct that isn't Van Wilder cool. Cops say Gastelum viciously attacked two young women near campus this summer because he assumed—incorrectly—that they were a lesbian couple.
Gastelum did not respond to requests for an interview, but here's law enforcement's version of events:
At about 2 a.m. on July 17, two women—ages 20 and 22, old friends—were walking through an alley to a Fullerton apartment when they encountered Gastelum. He was walking in the opposite direction with four friends—a guy and three girls. Gastelum laughed at the victims, pointed and yelled, "You look like boys. You must be lesbians! Bitches! Fucking dykes!"
When one of the female victims told him to show manners, Gastelum repeated his anti-gay epithets and allegedly punched the 20-year-old woman in her face, throat and chest, according to police. The force of the blows knocked her to the pavement. When she stood up, he allegedly struck her at least five more times. The second woman tried to protect her friend, which prompted Gastelum to ask, "What are you, her bitch?" He then allegedly slugged the woman 12 to 15 times, threw her into a nearby garage door and kicked her body.
This from a man who says on MySpace that he abhors "drama."
"The whole time he was beating us, he was yelling, 'Bitches, dykes, lesbians,'" the 20-year-old victim told the Weekly. "I feared for our lives. This guy obviously has no heart, no feelings. We are two girls barely taller than five feet, and he is a big muscle guy."
Prosecutor Scott Steiner, who heads the Orange County district attorney's hate crimes unit, said, "These women had done nothing wrong. They were completely innocent victims minding their own business. He rushed up to them, and the first thing out of his mouth was anti-gay rhetoric."
The victims told police Gastelum's male friend laughed during the attack; his female friends stood by and did nothing.
But when a male witness appeared, Gastelum fled in a car with his friends. The victims were left in the alley with swollen faces, cuts and bruises but did not need hospitalization. "Worse than anything I think is the mental anguish he's caused them," the prosecutor says. "They were traumatized. It turned their lives upside down."
During the week after the alleged attack, a Fullerton police investigation located the getaway car. That discovery led to a suspect. Detectives showed the victims and the witness a six-pack—police vernacular for six photographs of potential suspects. Each independently identified Gastelum as the assailant, according to law-enforcement records. He was arrested and released from custody on $20,000 bail.
"Unfortunately, some people try to minimize the significance of these types of crimes," says Steiner. "But I see the impact hate crimes have on innocent people. They target whole communities, and they are done to terrorize. It's unacceptable."
In addition to two misdemeanor battery counts, Gastelum now faces the more serious charge of injuring the women while violating their civil rights. According to the complaint, it's a felony in California to assault people based on their perceived sexual orientation. If convicted on all charges, Gastelum—who was convicted in a 2003 Los Angeles assault case and has numerous misdemeanor citations from police in Orange County—could be sent to prison for as much as three years.
The DA's office has two other pending hate crime cases:
•In Costa Mesa, on July 7, self-proclaimed Huntington Beach skinhead Ronald Lee Bray, 24, allegedly yelled racial slurs, spit on and then pushed a wheelchair-bound black man into a light pole before performing a pro-Hitler salute.
•Michael Ryan Danilewicz and Brian Steven Resplock, both 21, allegedly drove their Mercedes by a Mexican-American juvenile who was at an Irvine bus stop, yelled racial slurs, stopped and then assaulted the boy, telling him to get out of their neighborhood.
Recently closed Orange County hate crime cases include the following:
•Despondent about a 9/11 anniversary, Scott Kenton Wilson, 40, screamed racial slurs, choked and spit on an Arab-American cab driver before receiving a year in county jail.
•Wielding a box cutter and making racial slurs, Chad Edward Moreland, 27, attacked an African-American man at Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa and received a 13-year prison sentence for the hate crime plus drug charges.
•Abel Anthony Castaneda, 22, received 10 years in prison after he screamed racial slurs and used a deadly weapon to attack an unarmed African-American man in Santa Ana.
•Christopher Maxmillian Mulder, 21, and Logan Bradley Wooller, 20, were sentenced to 180 days in jail for uttering racial slurs at an African-American man in Huntington Beach and then attacking him with a knife during a party.