Update: Phoenix Police have officially designated the attack on Austin Head an anti-gay hate crime. Read more at New Times' news blog, Valley Fever.
Local DJ, activist, and former New Times Clubs Editor Austin Head was assaulted early on Friday, November 9, while walking down Central Avenue. Two men harassed and physically attacked Head and an unspecified friend, shouting homophobic slurs, attacking Head, and rendering him unconscious. He was transported to St. Joseph's hospital.
Head was released from the hospital around 6:30 a.m. Friday morning. "I'm recovering and improving slowly. I have some facial fractures and some swelling that's going down. I have lots of meds to help me along. I still remain strong," said Head via a Facebook conversation. His doctors have yet to determine the extent of his facial injuries and if he will require reconstructive surgery.
"This was a random attack on Central & Osborne," Head says. "I'm not positive on the time. Two men targeted us for appearing 'gay' and [yelled] homophobic slurs. I was on my bike and my friend was on foot. He was a bit behind, so I stopped and waited on the corner for him to catch up when they crossed the street yelling slurs. They then attacked us both as we tried to flee with my friend attempting to get on the handle bars. They pushed us off the bike then proceeded with punching. I was knocked unconscious and eventually taken to the hospital by ambulance."
The alleged assailants, Ernie and Jermon Barnes, were arrested Friday morning at 2:30 a.m. after being identified by a witness. Both were jailed for assault.
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"This is a time for us to make our voices heard against such ignorance and violence," says Head, now able to see out of both eyes as swelling has decreased. "It's a time for us to come together and let it be known that Phoenix will not tolerate nor condone these actions. Thanks to the quick response of the Phoenix Police Department, we can bring these people to justice."