5 charged in attack on gay man

Apr 29 2011 - 1:57pm

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- York County authorities have charged five men with assaulting a gay 19-year-old man earlier this month in Rock Hill.

The sheriff's office said Friday the five have been charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. It carries a prison term of up to 20 years, authorities say.

The five men could face additional charges, as the FBI has been investigating the assault as a possible hate crime. Sheriff Bruce Bryant said Friday that the FBI is turning over its findings to the U.S. Justice Department.

Joshua Esskew was badly beaten April 9 outside a convenience store. His case drew extra attention when surveillance video from the store was released, showing the men in what appeared to be a gang assault on Esskew.

Bryant said the video helped break the case, as it resulted in a number of tips from the public. He said members of the public provided the names of the suspects, and that all five have been arrested. Bryant said he does not think any other people were involved.

All five suspects are from York, S.C. Charged in the case were: Cortezio Laquise Douglas, 21; Lortarius Anthony Duncan, 22; LaJames Mitchell, 22; Darenco Markie Wilmore, 21; and Bobby Wilson, 20.

The sheriff's offices says investigators determined that after an argument between Esskew and a man standing in front of the convenience store, a man later identified as Wilson struck Esskew in the back of the head with a bottle. When Esskew attempted to confront Wilson, the sheriff's office says, the other men joined the fight.

Esskew told the Rock Hill Herald that the confrontation started when a man in front of the store yelled a gay slur at him. He told reporters the attack "was a hate crime."

Bryant said tips from the public were vital in making the arrests. He praised those who provided tips for their "willingness ... to get involved and not let this violent crime go unpunished."

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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