NEW: Victim won't give opinion on whether it was a hate crime
Atlanta mayor doubles the reward to $10,000
An online video shows his brutal beating by men shouting anti-gay slurs
Federal authorities are determining whether the case is a hate crime
The victim of a vicious beating by a gang of men shouting anti-gay slurs said Wednesday that he wants his attackers to face justice.
Brandon White, 20, spoke out for the first time at a news conference in Atlanta. He said he should never have to worry about being assaulted just because he is a gay man.
“If a straight person can walk to the store, I should be able to do the same thing,” he said. “I could have died that day. They are monsters.”
A video circulated online shows three men punching and kicking White after he stepped out of the JVC Grocery and Deli in southwest Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. The men, believed to be members of a gang called Jack City, yelled: “No f—-ts in Jack City.”
The store’s surveillance video shows White, dressed in a purple shirt and black jeans with a cell phone to his left ear, exit the store along with another man. As soon as they step outside, White is accosted by his attackers.
The surveillance video captured eight men standing around watching, two of them with video cameras in hand. One man lunges at White with a tire in his hands.
White told HLN later Wednesday that he went home after the 30-second attack.
“At this point I am beyond mad,” he told Jane Velez-Mitchell. “I actually go back because I wanted to see who they were.”
Atlanta police said the incident occurred February 4.
White said he did not report it right away because he did not want to draw attention to himself. He could not even bring himself to watch the video at first, he was so humiliated and embarrassed.
The video was released on YouTube and WorldHipHop.com, and was posted on The Smoking Gun.
When it went viral, White decided to talk to the police. “Once they put it out there they set themselves up,” he told HLN.
“I feel I was violated,” White told reporters. “The scars run deeper than anyone will know. The physical pain, I can get over that. My thing is: Who’s to say they won’t come after me again? Who’s to say they won’t kill me?”
Mayor Kasim Reed has doubled to $10,000 a reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects, said his spokesman, Reese McCranie.
FBI agents are also investigating the case to determine whether it meets criteria for prosecution under the federal hate crimes statute. White told HLN he could not comment on that aspect of the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said her office is looking into potential civil rights violations based on sexual orientation. Georgia does not have a state hate crimes statute.
“The actions depicted in the video are appalling and unacceptable in our community, and we encourage anyone with information about this video to contact the FBI or Atlanta police,” Yates said.
Enraged gay rights activists vowed that justice would be served, and residents appealed for expanded police presence in their community.
Devon Barrington Ward of Change Atlanta said the Jack City gang has no place in the Pittsburgh neighborhood.
“When I realized this was taking place in my own backyard, it was a gut-wrenching feeling,” Ward said at Wednesday’s news conference. “My brother was assaulted, so that means I was assaulted.”
Ward said tougher laws are needed to make victims like White feel empowered to come forward. White’s attackers, Ward said, are “cowards” who will be caught.
Pittsburgh community residents said the corner where White was attacked has been the scene of other acts of violence. They called for the JVC store to be shut down.
“Pittsburgh is not Jack City,” said LaShawn M. Hoffman, head of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association.
He said he is alarmed by the fact that no one on that corner thought to call police while White was being beaten.
“This is not the norm for our neighborhood,” he said.
Last year, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a study that showed that hate crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and HIV-affected people were on the rise in America.
In 2010, the coalition reported a 13% rise in LGBT hate crimes and documented 27 murders, a 23% increase from 2009.
State Rep. Simone Bell, who is openly gay, told CNN Atlanta affiliate WSB she hopes this case will pave the way for hate-crime legislation in Georgia.
CNN’s George Howell contributed to this report.