A gay man who says he witnessed another man being beaten and taunted with anti-gay slurs in a Tenderloin liquor store became a victim himself after he called police.
Leo Volobrynskyy, 30, a San Francisco resident originally from Odessa, Ukraine, is now missing a tooth and has at least 14 stitches in his mouth after an incident at a liquor store near Geary and Larkin streets, he told The San Francisco Examiner on Sunday. His cellphone was also stolen during the incident.
Volobrynskyy said he had left a San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival opening-night party and was on his way to visit a friend about 1:30 a.m. Friday when he stopped by the store to pick up a bottle of wine. While browsing, he heard a fight in the next aisle.
Volobrynskyy said a man was sitting atop a another man, hitting him, yelling “faggot” and saying, “This is my store, just don’t come here.” The victim was screaming, “Please don’t kill me” and, “Just let me go,” according to Volobrynskyy. He said that while the attack was occurring about three or four men, including the cashier, laughed and cheered.
“When I realized what was happening, I walked outside the store and called 911,” Volobrynskyy said. Not long after, he saw the victim run from the store. The next thing he knew, the attacker was in his face.
“Why did you f---ing call the cops?” the man asked Volobrynskyy. The thug punched him in the face, snatched his cellphone and fled, Volobrynskyy said.
“I lost consciousness for a second,” he said. “I had a mouthful of blood.”
When he got up, he saw the same group of gawkers from inside the store out front laughing at him, he said.
Volobrynskyy made it to his friend’s house, where they called police. When cops arrived, the men at the store denied having seen anything, Volobrynskyy said. He was taken to the hospital for his injuries. The following day a dentist had to remove his tooth.
A police report corroborates Volobrynskyy’s story, except there is nothing in it about inflammatory or derogatory comments, police Officer Albie Esparza said. The police are not treating the incident as a hate crime at this time.
“This is actually why we march,” Volobrynskyy said in regard to the attack happening during Gay Pride Month.
“Because we’re still not safe. This is supposed to be the safest city for gays to live in, and clearly it’s not safe enough.”
The assailant in the case was described as a white man about 25 years old, 6-foot-2 and about 175 to 190 pounds.
He was wearing blue jeans that hung low around his waist, a white T-shirt, either a gray or blue hoodie and a dark-colored baseball cap. No arrest had been made as of Monday.
Although the intervention didn’t end well for him Friday, it wasn’t the first time Volobrynskyy was a good Samaritan.
In November 2011, Volobrynskyy and a friend, along with two others, helped pull an unconscious man out of a burning car in the South of Market neighborhood.
The four were given Good Samaritan Awards by The City for their actions and were also honored by the Police and Fire departments, Volobrynskyy said.
He hopes Friday’s incident doesn’t stop people from doing the right thing.
“I really hope it doesn’t discourage people from stepping in and helping when help is needed,” Volobrynskyy said. “I do believe when they saw me call police that helped the other guy get away.”