UPDATE: Equality California's executive director released a statement tonight in response to Santa Ana Police "mishandling" a potential hate crime (see end of post) . . .
A volunteer for a nonprofit that works for legal protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered returned to her Santa Ana office Thursday night to find a noose hanging from the doorknob.
But Mel Distel, 25, of Huntington Beach, was almost more frightened by the attitude displayed by Santa Ana police officers who responded to what she considered a hate crime against Equality California (EQCA)
On EQCA's Facebook page, Distel relates the conversation she and EQCA's Daniel Shad had with two cops.
"There was nothing they could do, of course, there was no suspect and no crime had been committed. The officer said 'what it is, is a string on a door.' My vision got blurry, I was embarrased and felt stupid for making the call. I took a deep breath and said 'Do you see any correlation between the fact that this is a gay office and there was a noose left on our door in the wake of all of these teen suicides?' The officer said, 'Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim,' and proceeded to mention that his car had been broken into before."
That didn't exactly sit well with Distel.
"As if that's the same. As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message 'You should kill yourself.' As if random theft is anything like an act meant to convey hate and stir up fear in the heart of a minority group."
Shad was more succinct about the cop's attitude on his own Facebook page:
"Not cool dude. Not cool."
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Writing about the incident on the Liberal OC, Chris Prevatt shared the description of a hate crime as stated in California Penal Code section 422.55.
The cited examples--"painting racist, homophobic and/or religious graffiti on private property; burning a cross on an individual's lawn; an assault; a criminal threat of violence against an individual or group; attempted murder or murder"--seem to indicate a suspected hate crime case could be made from a noose left on an LGBT rights group's doorknob.
UPDATE: Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California," issued the following statement tonight:
"This is an outrageous, despicable attempt to intimidate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community just a few days before the election, but we will not be silenced. We will strengthen our fight to elect pro-equality candidates who champion full equality for our entire community and who shun anti-LGBT initiatives that foster discrimination and prejudice.
"In addition, the dismissive and deeply offensive conduct of the police officer who responded to this incident is nothing short of appalling and sends the message that LGBT community members cannot rely on the police for protection against the kind of hatred and prejudice that can lead to violence.
"We urge all Orange County residents to join us in demanding that Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul Walters conduct a thorough investigation into what appears to be an atrocious hate crime, to investigate and discipline the officer in question and to ensure that all officers are properly trained on how to appropriately handle all bias-motivated crimes against LGBT community members moving forward."
Equality California will file an official complaint with the police division for its handling of this matter.
To contact Police Chief Walters and demand a thorough investigation, please call 714-245-8002.