A gay man who was protecting his partner from a group of robbers in the Bronx on Christmas Eve was beaten so badly by the perpetrators that he died three days later, according to the NYPD.
The vicious attack took place shortly after 1 a.m. on December 24 when the couple, 29-year-old Byron Caceres and 60-year-old Juan Fresnada, left a McDonalds on Third Avenue near East 164th Street, according to the New York Daily News.
Police say five attackers then targeted Caceres in a robbery attempt before the pair decided to escape into a nearby deli. But that did nothing to stop the assailants, prompting Fresnada to step in and protect his partner.
According to the NYPD, both victims were punched and kicked, but Caceres said the attackers relentlessly pummeled Fresnada all around his body and hit him with a steel garbage can.
“They were beating him for 10 or 15 minutes,” Caceres told the Daily News. “I went back and found him on the floor. He was breathing heavily and bleeding from his head.”
Fresnada was transported to Lincoln Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on December 27 at 2 a.m. after he suffered from swelling in his brain. Police are now classifying the case as a homicide.
The thieves, whom police described as five Black males ranging in age from late teens to early 20s, wound up taking just $1 from the couple before fleeing westbound on East 165th Street. No arrests have been made and police are still seeking to learn the identities of the five attackers.
An NYPD spokesperson did not respond to questions about whether the case is being investigated as a hate crime. Caceres told the Daily News he did not hear the attackers using homophobic slurs and did not believe the attack was a hate crime. It is not clear whether the perpetrators knew the two men were partners.
Fresnada moved to New York from Cuba in 1980 and Caceres moved to New York from Honduras in 2007. They were introduced through a program for low-income gay men, according to the Daily News.