Valley men victims of hate crime?

PHOENIX - Austin Head has heard stories of hate crimes, but until late last week, the gay rights activist, and focus of a recent HIV-positive documentary never thought he would become a victim.

"I've always felt safe in downtown Phoenix," Austin said.

While walking home from a bar late Thursday night, Austin and a friend were attacked by two men. He said the two men started yelling gay slurs, and then began swinging. During the fight, Austin was knocked out cold.

"After being knocked unconscious, I woke up in the emergency room," he said.

During the beating, Austin suffered cuts, an eye injury and a broken bone in his face.

Police did catch up to the pair who allegedly attacked the two men. Ernie and Jermon Barnes were charged with aggravated assault. Investigators said because they apparently targeted Austin and his friend because they are gay, the charges were elevated.

"These two suspects targeted these victims strictly based on their sexual orientation. Once you start to target people for those types of things, that's what makes it a bias crime," Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos said.

Austin said he will recover with his pride intact. With time, he hopes people will learn to accept others.

"There's always going to be people who are intolerant of something. The only way you can combat that is by making your voice heard, and educating them."

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