Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Oakland police describe alleged gay bashing

Oakland police have shared some information reported to them after a gay man was reportedly attacked outside a club in the city last week.

Officer Holly Joshi, an Oakland police spokeswoman, said police were called at 2:18 a.m. Thursday, August 11 to the 2200 block of Telegraph Avenue to investigate a battery.

When officers arrived, Justin Purnell, 29, (on right in photo) told them that another man had assaulted him in front of the club and called him “batty boy,” which Purnell believed to be the Jamaican word for “gay.”

Adalberto Castellon, 28, reported to police that as Purnell was being assaulted, Castellon rode over on his bicycle but fell off and was injured, Joshi said.

Purnell hasn’t responded to the Bay Area Reporter’s interview requests. Castellon couldn’t be reached. A call to the Para Diso lounge, where the incident reportedly occurred, wasn’t returned.

The police account differs from what’s appeared in news stories.

Shortly after the incident, Purnell told the Bay Citizen news site that a pair of men had approached him and Castellon, shouting gay slurs and telling them that “if they were in Jamaica they’d be dead.” Purnell told the New York Times-affiliated site that as he rode past the men on his bicycle, one of them hit him on the head, knocking him off his bike.

Purnell swung his bike lock at them, while one of the men hit Castellon in the face, Purnell told the site. The men who’d attacked them got into a black Porsche Cayenne SUV with two women who’d witnessed the attack, according to the site.

According to the Bay Citizen, Purnell identifies as gay, while Castellon is straight. The two are in the band Younger Lovers (seen in above photo).

After Purnell got into an online dispute with a commenter on the Bay Citizen website who said he’d witnessed the incident and contradicted Purnell’s account, Castellon told the site that his face had been broken in five places, “from the bottom of his eye to his jaw.” The witness’s accounts also don’t appear to match what was reported to police.

The Bay Citizen reported that Oakland police didn’t respond to repeated calls and emails about the incident.

Joshi told the B.A.R. that she didn’t know whether Purnell also goes by the first name Brontez, which is the name that’s been used for him in news reports.

She said the police report lists Purnell as the victim and Castellon as the witness. She said that Castellon made “no claims at the time that he had been assaulted.”

Purnell had no visible injuries and did not receive medical attention, Joshi said. She said Castellon had “some visible signs of injury” that weren’t life threatening, and he did not want medical attention. None was provided, she said. Joshi said she couldn’t say what Castellon’s injuries looked like due to health care privacy rules.

Joshi said she only had a “very general” suspect description of an African American man, 24 to 36, 6 feet tall, and weighing about 170 pounds. The police report didn’t say what the man was wearing, she said. She declined to describe the suspect’s vehicle.

She also said the police report did not provide details of any witnesses besides Castellon. However, she said the suspect had been in a group of people, “so clearly, they’re witnesses as well.”

The police report doesn’t indicate any other circumstances that lead up to the incident, Joshi said. She said the suspect, Purnell, and Castellon had all been inside the club beforehand. The report indicates the assault was unprovoked, she said.

However, “It’s not clear that it’s a gay bashing,” Joshi said, adding, “It would take some investigative follow up to really find that out.”

“There are leads, but no arrests,” Joshi said in an interview Tuesday, August 16.

When asked whether the case was being investigated as a hate crime, Joshi said Oakland police don’t have a designated hate crime unit and examine all assaults in a similar fashion. When an incident is determined to be a hate crime, that’s how police present it to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, she said.

She said there were no weapons involved. A copy of the report wasn’t immediately available, and Joshi declined to comment on whether there’s video surveillance footage of the incident.

Joshi also said she’d call the investigation of Purnell’s case “open,” rather than “active.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Oakland Police Department’s assault unit at (510) 238-3426. The report number is 11-039160.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 18, 2011 @ 12:09 pm PST
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