Crime & Justice

Family of Echo Park hate crime victim pleads for witnesses to come forward

Echo Park residents held a community meeting about a recent stabbing police are investigating as a hate crime.
Echo Park residents held a community meeting about a recent stabbing police are investigating as a hate crime.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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A mother’s plea took center stage at an Echo Park meeting Tuesday evening. Jennie Olivas was looking for answers in a twin stabbing that took place last month in the busy neighborhood. The stabbings are being investigated as hate crimes.

“I am asking the community to please, please…if you know who did this, please report it,” said Olivas, mother of one of the victims.

Two men were stabbed a little after midnight on May 24 near the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Montana Street. The whole incident was caught on camera by a nearby business.

As the victims walked to what appears to be a bus stop, police say a group of three people — two men and a woman — yelled anti-gay slurs at them. The two victims had rainbow stickers on their bicycles. Then one of the suspects broke away from the group and ran to stab one of the bikers. As the victim folds over in pain, the friend runs to confront the aggressor and gets stabbed as well.

The two victims, both in their early twenties, have been released from the hospital. One suffered a stab wound to his stomach and the other suffered a stab wound that shattered his pelvis. Police are not releasing names due to the nature of the crime.

“I’ve heard the rumors that some of the homies know who it is. Come on and stand up,” pleaded Olivas. “Stand up for this community, stand up for your family. You should not tolerate this.”

SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 721 held the meeting with elected officials at El Centro Del Pueblo, not far from where the stabbing took place.

LAPD officials passed out fliers with a freeze frame of the suspects and encouraged attendees to call with any information. Police say they interviewed one woman in the video who appeared to have seen what happened, but they say she denied seeing anything or being there.

“If this crime is going to be solved, it is going to be solved by someone who witnessed it or heard something,” said LAPD Lt. Steven Flores.

Representatives with L.A. County’s Human Relations Commission talked to the community about the difference between a hate incident and a hate crime, and how hate crimes are prosecuted.

“I am really glad they came to talk to us about what hate crimes are. I didn’t even know what a hate incident is, so this was good,” said Ronnie Veliz, a recent Cal State-Northridge graduate. Veliz, 25, said he was with a few friends on campus recently when a group of people drove by and yelled anti-gay slurs at them, an example of a hate incident.

Community leaders asked neighbors to post the surveillance video of the stabbing on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

“We want to create a buzz in the community, folks,” said SEIU Local 271 union member Howard Sterker.

He said an anti-hate crime poster is being printed in hopes that every business on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park will hang it.

“We want individuals to start saying there is a zero tolerance for hate crimes in Echo Park,” he said.