Justin Wicker, a former member of the Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles, has been identified as the victim of an assault at Arenas Road in Palm Springs, outside of Blackbook restaurant. Friends and family are asking for any information leading to the arrest of the assailant. The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday, July 9th, at approximately 1:35-1:40 a.m.
Police investigators are stating that they currently do not have enough evidence to call it a hate crime, however, some witnesses say the assault was motivated by racism and homophobia.
“For those of you that know Justin Wicker from GMCLA and being here im Palm Springs…Justin was severely beaten in a hate crime tonight at 1:35-1:40 on Arenas Ave as the two of us were walking to his car after a night of a comedy show, karaoke and a fun night between friends,” posted Timothy S. Carl on his Facebook timeline at 4:08 a.m that Friday morning. “I saw the whole thing happen and was utterly in shock. I don’t want to go into detail as I’m literally numb right now. The police got my full statement as well as 4 other witnesses. There was security cameras that hopefully caught everything. Justin was transported by ambulance to Desert Regional Hospital Emergency Room Trauma Department. His boyfriend David Wallace now knows and getting in touch with Justin’s family in Seattle.
Please pray. Just pray, pray, pray.”
The post generated a lot of comments and shares on social media.
“People ask why we still need Pride,” posted newly elected Co-Chair of the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, Jason Frazier. “Last night in Palm Springs, one of my fellow GMCLA brothers was on his way back to his car after a fun night out with friends. They were walking down Arenas Ave laughing and carring on when suddenly Justin was attacked. EMS was called and he was rushed to the hospital. The beating was so severe, he needed emergency brain surgery. Reach out and to those you care about and tell them they are loved. And please, say a prayer (or two) for my friend Justin Wicker.”
NBC Palm Springs reports that the Palm Springs Police Department have not found any evidence of a hate crime in their ongoing investigation, and that even the victims told them it was not a hate crime but an assault.
The Palm Springs Police Department released the following statement:
“PSPD Investigators are conducting an investigation into a battery incident that occurred early this morning.
Officers were dispatched to the 400 block of E. Arenas Rd. regarding a victim of a battery. Officers learned that the victim and a friend were walking from a local bar on E. Arenas Rd. and engaged in conversation with another male.
The victim told the male that he resembled the actor “Eddie Murphy.” It was reported that the male became angry at this comment and a physical confrontation occurred. The male began chasing the victim. While running away, the victim slipped and struck his head on the ground. The subject chasing the victim left the area. The victim was transported to a local area hospital and is in critical condition.
Because of the physical confrontation and fact that the male was chasing the victim when the victim fell and became injured, officers are investigating this incident as an assault and battery.
We have seen social media rumors indicating this incident was a targeted hate crime. At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred.
The investigation is still early and ongoing and investigators are looking for anyone who may have additional information about this incident to come forward and provide us with the additional details.
The suspect is described as a black male adult, approximately 5-08 wearing a light blue button up shirt, white shorts, and was last seen in a black convertible type vehicle.
Investigators are looking through video evidence at this time to see if there are any images that can be released to assist identifying the suspect in this case.
If you do have information that would assist investigators, we ask that you call us at 760-327-1441. You can also report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.”
However, a man who identified himself as one of the victims on the scene tells WEHO TIMES that the incident was very much a hate crime. “It was one hundred percent a hate crime like the sky is blue,” he said. “We were both called you white bitch. You white cunt. Fucking faggot, over and over again.”
He said punches were thrown and that Wicker was thrown down two steps by the sidewalk head first. When the assailant realized he was unconscious, he and a male companion fled the scene.
Wicker is currently in critical condition. Police will not speak of his injuries, but according to a source, he is currently in a coma after having brain surgery.
Aside from singing in the Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles, Justin Wicker is also a drag performer who goes by the name of Camille Toe. He was having a back and forth banter with a friend when he made the comment, “Look, it’s Eddie Murphy” referring to the suspect who was parking his convertible vehicle. According to the witness, the comment was not malicious, but it’s what started the altercation that lead to the assault.
Police said the investigation is still early and ongoing. Investigators are looking through video evidence to check for images that can be released to assist identifying the suspect in this case.
Investigators are looking for anyone who may have additional information about this incident to come forward and provide us with the additional details. Anyone with information is asked to call 760-327-1441.
You can also report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of the piece suggested Justin Wicker was an active member of GMCLA. A source has informed us that Wicker stopped being a member after he moved to Palm Springs. The piece has been updated to reflect his current status as a former member of the chorus.