Monday evening on Second Street in Belmont Shore started as a night like any other.
In fact, partners J.H. and J.W. had embarked upon the very same routine a few nights earlier, during the 33rd Annual Belmont Shore Christmas Parade: dinner at St. and Second, followed by a leisurely walk to J.W.’s car, parked on St. Joseph Avenue.
The tenor of the night’s events quickly changed when the couple was attacked by what they say was a trio of hispanic males in their late teens or early 20s, who allegedly shouted homophobic and racial obscenities at the victims throughout the incident. Both men were stabbed, one sustaining a punctured lung.
“It’s pretty nuts—you wouldn’t think something like that would happen,” said J.W., who is black and in his late 30s. “Belmont Shore, with its restaurants and shops... It’s usually deemed pretty safe. But there are spots throughout Long Beach where people are getting beaten up and robbed.”
Both J.H. and J.W. requested to be referred to by just their initials.
J.H., who is white and in his 50s, was stabbed twice in the chest, but is currently out of the hospital, stitched up and on the road to recovery. Meanwhile, J.W. sustained a punctured lung, through a stab wound in the back. He is currently being treated at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.
The couple left St. and Second at closing time, around 10:20PM, said J.W.
“We just had fun, having dinner and walking along St. Joseph,” said J.H. They had passed the meters on the street and were just getting close to the residential zone, when they saw two men, described as Hispanic males in their late teens or early 20s, on the opposite side of the street.
Because J.W.’s car was parked on that side, they began to cross.
“They [the men] met us in the middle,” said J.W. “They said ‘Run your pockets,’” he said, demanding money from the couple. “[J.H.] and I were taken aback. It’s not every day when someone asks you for your money.”
The couple stood their ground, loudly talking to the suspects, signaling they would not comply and hand over their wallets. Soon after, a member of the group described as tall and skinny lunged forward and attacked J.H.
“I was screaming while I was fighting to get on top [...] I was grabbing whatever I could: hair, eyes, because we were too close to punch each other,” said J.H. “These guys weren’t trying to give up.” J.W. was pushed away from J.H. and engaged by a second young male assailant.
As soon as the physical altercation began, J.H. said certain inflammatory statements were being repeated over and over, including “F-ck all ni--ers.”
“I was like, this is becoming something else,” said J.W. At some point during the altercation, he fell and experienced a sharp pain.
“It think that must’ve been when he stabbed me,” said J.W. At that point, the suspect continued to kick and punch J.W. in the head, while he was on the ground.
Both men said they saw a group of bystanders down the road who simply stared, despite their screams.
Eventually, a resident on the street came out of his house and injected himself into the altercation, attempting to push the suspects off of the couple. However, the man’s presence didn’t stop the assault.
“I just don’t feel like it was a common attempted robbery,” said J.W. “It wasn’t the common thief that wasn’t personally invested in the situation. He would likely turn and run.”
The couple say a third young hispanic man ran down the street, but four other neighbors quickly exited their homes as well and made their presence known. It wasn’t until the neighbors outnumbered the young men, five to three, that the suspects ran away.
“Personally, I feel there’s a strong possibility we were targeted from the get-go,” said J.W. “F-words and N-words were thrown around pretty quickly, and they were definitely directed at me. If it wasn’t the primary motivator behind the attack, it was definitely a secondary one.”
As previously reported, the police were dispatched around 10:45PM. The two men were at the hospital by 11:30, where they received treatment for their wounds.
While J.H. is out of the hospital and has returned to work, part-time, J.W. will be out for the next few weeks. Both are still processing the attack, and how it has altered their world view.
“The officer made a good point—they don’t go to poor sections to rob people,” said J.H. “They’re gonna go to nice parts. In retrospect, we couldn’t have prepared for this. They appeared from out of nowhere. You just have to take stock of the situation and rethink.”
From his hospital bed, J.W. told the Post the parting words of the three men made him believe the aggressive nature of the attack was likely related to gang activity or gang initiation, which often involves targeting members of the gay or black community.
“Their last words were ‘F-ck all ni--ers.’ To me that was very clear.” J.W. listed some past actions by the East Side Longos as making this incident possibly gang-related, in his opinion.
The police have not mentioned gang activity as a possibility at this point, nor if this incident could be classified as a hate crime.
“Detectives are actively investigating and attempting to determine if the victims were specifically targeted,” an LBPD representative said in a statement today.
J.H. said the support from family and friends in the aftermath of the attack has been amazing, and he’s grateful to just be alive. He said he wants people to be aware that dangerous situations can occur anywhere, encouraging people to travel in groups and park in well-lit areas.
“I’m just glad I’m sitting here,” said J.W. “It was a really bad night, and was really eye-opening.”