POSTED: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 5:40pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 3:21pm
EL PASO - Every so often, we hear about a hate crime usually occurring somewhere else in the country. That issue topped the agenda at a roundtable discussion today at UTEP.
Last year, El Paso was dubbed the safest city in the country because of its low crime rate. However, experts say it's not all that safe for some minority groups, like gays, who are more likely to be the victims of violent hate crimes in El Paso.
FBI agent Jay Abbott said hate crimes pertaining to race or religion are rare here, but that's not the case with sexuality.
"Where it does occur, particularly against the gay and lesbian community....we have had some experience with that here. That's something that we want to try to get focused on,” said Abbott.
Back in May, a man was severely beaten outside of the Old Plantation, a local gay club. To many, the violent incident had the makings of a hate crime. The case was handed over to the FBI.
The family of the victim, Lionel Martinez, told Newschannel 9 they believe it's a hate crime. However, the FBI said that as of now, there's not enough evidence to label the case as such.
"As far as meeting the hate crime statutes for the state of Texas, the elements aren't met," said Abbott.
However, the FBI said that doesn't mean the case is closed.
“Federally, our Department of Justice...is still examining the case because we believe [it was] motivated, from interviews, by a bias against a gay group,” added Abbott.
While that incident is in a legal gray area, Abbott said hate crimes of any kind should be dealt with severely.
"No matter where it occurs, it's important to get focused...it's one of those violations of crimes that shouldn't be tolerated in our society,” stated Abbott.
The FBI said across the country, hate crimes motivated by racism are more common.