ORLANDO | Orlando resident John Richards took to Twitter Sept. 27 claiming he and his friends were assaulted in a hate crime perpetrated by an employee at a downtown 7-Eleven late evening on Sept. 26.
Richards, in an email to Watermark, says he and five friends attend an art show in Downtown Orlando and, on the way back to their car, decided to stop in the 7-Eleven located at 124 W Pine St. Downtown Orlando to purchase drinks and use the restroom.
Cashier at 124 W PINE ST. DOWNTOWN ORLANDO, FL 32801 @7eleven attacked my friend because he was gay as we were LEAVING. It’s all on audio recording but we called the police and they threatened to arrest us! The store refused to release the camera footage. Twitter pls do ur thing pic.twitter.com/6SG6p1tmYl
— richard (@gtfojordan) September 27, 2018
According to Richards, his friend — 20-year-old Ivan Morales — was unable to find the restroom and claims the cashier began to make gay jokes and hurl insults at them. The cashier then asked the group to leave the store.
“At first we thought it was only a joke,” Richards says in the email. “Then he progressively got more aggressive so we walked out of the store. As we were walking he told Ivan that he ‘had a dick between his legs, but he was acting like a bitch.'”
Another of Richards’ friends, Alina Hazelitt, said they should go back inside and get the cashiers name to let the manager know of their experience.
“We decided to just let it go and return quickly just to get our drinks,” Richards said.
According to Richards, when the group got there drinks and tried to check out, the cashier refused. After Morales and his friends were denied service, the cashier told Morales, “Come outside, I played football, I’ll beat your gay ass,” while walking around the counter.
Richards claims that the cashier yanked Hazelitt’s phone out of her hand while she was recording the incident and threw it out of the store while also grabbing another one of Richards’ friend’s cell phone.
“He was telling us to leave the store, but he took my friend’s phone and put it in his pocket so we really couldn’t leave the store,” says Richards, speaking with Watermark over the phone.
When outside, the cashier started hitting Morales. Morales was able to get away and ran back inside the store in hopes that the 7-Eleven cameras would deter the cashier from continuing to attack.
The employee followed Morales inside and continued assaulting him, according to Richards’ statement.
“[Morales] was unconscious but [the cashier] was still beating him and punching him in the face,” says Richards.
Richards says they attempted to help there friend by pulling the cashier off of him, that is when, according to Richards, a second 7-Eleven employee began pushing them all out of the store.
Richards says that police were called, but when they arrived on the scene they began to threaten to arrest Richards and his friends after “they found out we are gay.”
“As soon as we mentioned it was because we were gay, everything dramatically changed,” says Richards.
Richards claims the cops told them that they could arrest everybody or nobody, and that the officers denied Richards and two other friends from making a statement about the incident.
According to Richard’s email, he says the police let two of the friends file a report.
7-Eleven responded to the allegations by commenting on Richards’ tweet, saying “We sincerely hope your friend is doing ok! Every 7-Eleven customer should be treated with respect, and we never condone violence or abuse of any kind. The franchisee has fired this associate, and we are cooperating with authorities throughout this investigation.”
We sincerely hope your friend is doing ok! Every 7-Eleven customer should be treated with respect, and we never condone violence or abuse of any kind. The franchisee has fired this associate, and we are cooperating with authorities throughout this investigation.
— 7-Eleven (@7eleven) September 28, 2018
Watermark contacted the franchise manager of the Pine St. 7-Eleven. He confirmed that one of the employees has been terminated and referred us to the Orlando Police Department (OPD).
Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith tweeted at Richards his condolences and offering to help them with the situation. Smith wrote, “I’m a gay man and also a survivor of hate violence. These types of crimes are very serious. I’m also a lawmaker + elected member of the Florida House of Representatives. Please DM me or email me at email@example.com so that we can get to the bottom of this.”
I’m a gay man and also a survivor of hate violence. These types of crimes are very serious. I’m also a lawmaker + elected member of the Florida House of Representatives. Please DM me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can get to the bottom of this. 🏳️🌈
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) September 28, 2018
Richards says that he has spoken with an attorney and is going to be pressing charges.
“Firing only removes him from 7-Eleven, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again,” Richards says. “He obviously has some strong, built-up hatred for gay people. He made it very clear.”
Watermark reached out to OPD for comment. OPD states they have received claims from multiple people claiming to be victims of this incident.
“We can’t say at this time whether the people who made the tweet are the victims or are the suspects,” says an OPD spokesperson. “Investigators are still actively working the case. They are looking through the statements and the videos to make a determination, but a determination has not been made at this point.”
OPD says that no arrests have been made as of this time but that the investigation is open and still ongoing.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information is made available.
Image from Google Streetview.