A 15-year-old Orange City boy was charged with a felony battery count after allegedly assaulting and brutalizing a 16-year-old Palm Coast boy while calling him a “faggot.” The incident , captured by surveillance cameras, took place at a SMA Healthcare shelter in Daytona Beach that bills itself as a “Safe Place.” The victim was so severely beaten that his right eye was partially shut, may have suffered a broken wrist, and was taken to the hospital.
The 15 year old attacker would normally have faced a first-degree misdemeanor battery charge. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office charged him under an “enhanced felony battery charge” under the state’s hate crime law, as the alleged attack was motivated by prejudice.
A sheriff’s deputy responded to SMA Healthcare’s Beach House at 3875 Tiger Bay Road just after 9 Friday morning on reports of a battery complaint, according to the 15-year-old’s arrest report. Beach House is a shelter for youths ages 10 to 17 who stay there briefly for being homeless, runaways, truants or what SMA terms “ungovernable,” and need a brief “time out” to give families a chance to regroup and move reunify. It is not a disciplinary facility, but a crisis shelter.
A Beach House supervisor described a physical altercation between the two juveniles–Isaiah Loring, the 15 year old, and the Palm Coast boy. According to the deputy’s report following a review of the surveillance video, Loring and the other boy were sitting next to each other in a multipurpose room with several other residents when Loring says something to the victim, then stands and walks over to the victim, who remained seated. “Towering” over the victim, the report states, Loring then attacks the other boy with closed fists, striking him multiple times, mounts him, and continues punching him in the face before staffers finally intervene and remove him.
The victim’s parent reported to the facility. The alleged victim told the deputy that he identifies as gay, that his attacker knows it, and that he continually fired the “faggot” slur at him, upsetting him to the point of making him cry. That had taken place before the assault, but the Palm Coast boy left the multipurpose room to gather himself and wash his face. When he returned, Loring attacked him, accusing him of snitching to staffers that he’d been name-calling him. The 16 year old told Loring that he had not snitched. Loring called him a faggot again, and attacked him.
The attack left the victim with a partially closed right eye from swelling, the report states, with abrasions elsewhere on the face, and that appeared to be a broken wrist. The boy’s father took him to Halifax hospital for evaluation and treatment, and sought to pursue charges. Loring told the deputy he did not intend to speak with him. Authorities’ attempt to locate his parents were fruitless. Loring at the time was on probation for battery. He was also charged with a probation violation, a felony.
Florida law, the Volusia Sheriff’s Office reported, provides for enhanced charges against a defendant if the commission of a crime “evidences prejudice based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, or advanced age of the victim.”
The incident does not take place in a vacuum. The day before in Palm Coast, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School was suspended for distributing and encouraging fellow-students to wave gay-pride flags at a brief demonstration protesting the Florida House passing a law forbidding teachers to discuss sexual and gender identity matters with younger students, and potentially enable them to out them to their parents. (See: “Anti-‘Woke’ and ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bills Clear Florida House Following Emotional, Futile Debates.”) A parent last month was arrested on charges of brutalizing his son for wearing make-up. Two school board members in Flagler, Jill Woolbright and Janet McDonald, have sought to ban books, particularly books with LGBTQ themes, and have succeeded in one regard so far, and McDonald censored the same student leader suspended Thursday at a school board meeting in 2020, when he attempted to criticize her.
Less than a month ago, Lomack J. Bennett, a 33-year-old Palm Coast resident, was charged with felony child abuse and battery by strangulation after allegedly assaulting his son while questioning his sexual identity, and for wearing make-up. The alleged crime appeared to have been similarly motivated by prejudice against the boy’s orientation, ordinarily compelling the third-degree felony charges to be enhanced to second-degree felonies. The charges were not. On Feb. 25, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges altogether. Bennett in a separate case still faces a second-degree felony charge of selling cocaine and a third-degree felony charge of unlawful use of a cell phone. Bennett is out on bond, and the no-contact order regarding his son has been revoked.
The Centers for Disease Control in August 2020 issued a report showing that lesbian, gay and bisexual students face twice as much bullying at school than do heterosexual students (33 percent compared with 17 percent).
In recent months the Volusia Sheriff’s Office has identified two other cases that involved enhanced charges due to evidence of prejudice: The June 2021 arrest of a 21-year-old man who yelled racial slurs and pointed a gun at a family driving through the DeLand area, and the January 2022 arrest of a 58-year-old man who used racial slurs in an unprovoked attack on an occupied vehicle at an Osteen-area gas station. Ormond Beach charged two individuals with felony vandalism last November after they vandalized a city park with anti-Semitic stickers and spray paint.
Two weeks ago in Palm Coast, dozens of anti-Semitic fliers were dropped on Palm Coast driveways in the C Section and in an Ormond Beach neighborhood. Authorities could not identify the individuals responsible, though even if they had, the act is not considered a crime and is protected under the First Amendment.