Austin Police Seeking Leads in Hate Crime Investigation

Investigators, gay bars ask for information on Saturday's attack

Rain on 4th and Oilcan Harry’s, two of Austin’s iconic gay bars, are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in connection with the attack against Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry. The two men were attacked in the early hours of Saturday morning, Jan. 19, after leaving a friend’s birthday celebration at Rain.

Spencer Deehring (l) and Tristan Perry (Photo provided by Spencer Deehring)

Deehring, who I spoke with on Monday, said he and Perry were holding hands as they walked to their truck when a man passing by directed a gay slur at them. The couple returned a verbal retort in their defense and kept walking, but the man called over several more men who continued to verbally assault the couple. Perry, who suffered a major concussion with “minor” internal bleeding, doesn’t recall what happened next, but Deehring remembers one of the men punching Perry in the face, breaking his nose, and dropping him to his knees. Perry was punched several more times before falling to the ground where another man kicked him in the head. At this point, Deehring said he was “barely able to process what was going on,” but worried Perry might be dead and jumped in to ward off the attackers. He too was then punched several times and knocked unconscious. When he awoke, Perry was by his side and a bystander had called 911. The couple was taken to the Dell Seton emergency room.

Today, Jan. 22, the Austin Police Department said they are investigating the attack as a hate crime and have asked the community to come forward with any additional information. Though neither Deehring or Perry recall where the incident occured, APD responded to the 911 call at Third Street and Congress Ave. According to APD, one suspect has been described as a Hispanic male, wearing a blue and white striped polo shirt; the second suspect was described as a white male with no shirt on. Investigators are asking for anyone who was in the area between 2am and 2:28am (when officers arrived) to contact APD immediately. The department said, “We want our community to know we do not tolerate these types of crimes.”

According to APD statistics, seven crimes reported to the department and "considered to be hate crimes" were committed in Austin in 2016, five in 2017, and five in 2018.

Deehring, who’s lived in Austin for several years (unlike Perry, who moved here just a few weeks ago from Corpus Christi), confirmed they’re working with APD to catch the “gentlemen” who did this to them, because the “thought of this happening to someone else breaks my heart.” He also admitted he's “shocked” that “even in Austin this can happen.”

Via Facebook, Rain management said they’ve been working with the Mayor’s office and APD Chief Brian Manley to “coordinate resources and actions to help ensure this crime is fully investigated and prosecuted. We are also working together on community safety measures to ensure we send a strong message that threats in the warehouse district will not be ignored. … We will not stand by when our customers and community members are brutally assaulted simply for expressing their love.”

For Deehring and Perry, the only positive result of Saturday’s attack has been the outpouring of community support. By Tuesday evening, the couple’s GoFundMe campaign to help cover medical expenses had raised nearly $14,000 – far exceeding their $4,000 request. “People we don't know have reached out to support us,” said Perry, noting that people from all over Austin, as well as the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico have expressed their support. He called it “overwhelming in the best way.”

Have information? Call APD at 512/974-9207 or submit tips via Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or text "Tip 103" + your message to CRIMES.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

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Hate crime, Spencer Deehring, Tristan Perry, Austin Police Department, Rain on 4th, Oilcan Harry's

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