An attack on a gay man who witnesses say was knocked unconscious by two U.S. Marines who thought he winked at them has prompted a preliminary investigation into whether the case warrants federal charges as a hate crime.
FBI spokesman Steve Emmett in Atlanta said Monday the agency and federal prosecutors were looking into the weekend attack on 26-year-old Kieran Daly to see if it meets requirements for hate crime charges by the Justice Department. He declined to comment further.
Savannah-Chatham County police found Daly unconscious on a downtown street corner after 3 a.m. Saturday. The two Marines, stopped after an officer saw them running, were arrested on misdemeanor battery charges.
A spokesman for Marine Air Corps Station Beaufort, where the suspects are stationed nearby in South Carolina, said the two Marines have received death threats online from people angered by the case. He urged people not to jump to conclusions.
"There are two sides to every story and right now the only side getting told is the alleged victim's," said Gunnery Sgt. Chad McMeen. "People have looked them up on Facebook and they're now giving them death threats, for what may have been a simple bar fight."