Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of one of the suspects. This story has been updated with the correct spelling. Since the initial publication of this article on Feb. 13, 2019, KXAN received information from the Travis County District Attorney’s office that the case against one of the suspects had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Four suspects have been taken into custody in connection to the brutal attack of a gay couple in downtown Austin last month.
Tuesday morning, Georgetown resident Frank Macias, 22, was arrested, according to a court affidavit. He faces two counts of second-degree felony aggravated assault after allegedly participating in the beating of Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry on Jan. 19 as they left a bar near the intersection of Third Street and Congress Avenue.
Charges have also been filed for two other suspects: A 20-year-old and Kolby Monell. Through Instagram, the 20-year-old was identified as both the brother of Frank Macias and also to have matched the images of a man with the same forearm tattoos fleeing the scene.
According to officials, on January 24, a social media search of the 20-year-old brought to light Monell, who was tagged in an Instagram photo with him. Detectives believe the social media post, Monell’s driver’s license photo and previous Georgetown booking photos match the physical description in the surveillance video.
Both men were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon and will also face two counts of second-degree aggravated assault.
Deehring and Perry told police they were walking down the street holding hands when a man called them a homophobic slur.
When the couple asked him what he said, they told police the man started to “hurl the word f—– several times while simultaneously motioning other individuals to his location,” police wrote in the court document.
A man described as muscular and having long, dirty blonde hair allegedly punched Perry who fell to the ground. “The entire group of individuals began punching and kicking him,” police wrote. Deehring tried to step in and defend his boyfriend and police say the group attacked him as well.
A witness told police he saw the group first yelling slurs at the couple and then attacking them. He stepped in to stop the attack and when the suspects saw him calling 911, they threatened to beat him too and then ran away, police wrote.
Fuzzy surveillance footage from a nearby building captured the attack and another camera a few blocks away captured a clearer picture of the alleged attackers.
A few days after the attack, police received a crime stoppers tip naming Macias and another person as suspects in the case. Full identifying information for Macias was retrieved from his driver’s license and criminal records among other sources.
On Jan. 28, Deehring — who had previously told KXAN he had a better memory of what happened — and the witness were shown two police lineups. In both cases, they picked out Macias as a suspect.
Macias’ bond was set collectively at $300,000 with conditional release.
Shortly after the incident, the owners of several businesses in downtown Austin pooled together to offer $11,000 as a reward for information in the case. “I think it’s tragic in this day and age that this kind of thing still happens, and I certainly hope the reward will help put the perpetrators behind bars very soon,” said Jim Spencer, KXAN’s chief weather forecaster and one of the investors in the companies that own Rain on Fourth and Oil Can Harry’s. The reward, in addition to the department’s tips line have been credited with bringing the suspects into custody.
In a separate press conference Tuesday afternoon, hosted by APD and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, released information on the newly named suspects.
Officials first explained that another suspect, Quinn O’Connor, has been arrested in connection with the crime and charged with two counts of second-degree aggravated assault. His bond is also set at a total of $300,000. Both Macias and O’Connor were identified by their driver’s licenses photos cross-referenced with surveillance footage.
“Hate crime is a very serious crime and not one that will be tolerated here in the city of Austin,” said an APD sergeant in the conference. “To the victims, Spencer and Tristan, we took this case very seriously and we worked a lot of hours to solve this case.”
At the conference, Moore explained that the goal for presentation to the grand jury would be getting the charges bumped up from second-degree felonies to first-degree felonies that will be charged as proven hate crimes.
John Scott Neal, president of Rain on 4th and managing member of Oilcan Harry’s, and Scott Percifull, director of operations for both clubs, also held a press conference in front of Rain on 4th Tuesday afternoon. “Our community will not stand by when one of us is threatened or assaulted. We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our community and make sure justice is served,” said Neal.
During the conference, a call for city leaders to ensure a safer community was also expressed. Additionally, Scott explained that the reward — which totaled $13,000 — helped lead to the arrest. “We believe it was a combination of everything. We understand that police work is what gave us the video footage of the attack and assailants walking away from the attack.”
Prosecutor Beth Payan with the Travis County District Attorney’s office and a member of the Hate Crimes Task Force told KXAN a proven hate crime finding on top of any charge would increase the sentencing range of the crime.
In general terms, a second-degree aggravated assault charge, if convicted, has a punishing range of two to 20 years in prison. If a hate crime finding was successfully proven on top of that, the sentencing range would increase to five to 99 years in prison. “There are certain circumstances where a type of probation, if eligible, might apply,” she said.
According to APD officials, there were a total of 19 hate crimes reported in Austin in 2018 and 17 in 2017.