The suspects, all facing charges of felony armed robbery, range in ages from 13 through 19. Four of the suspects are juveniles and will be tried as adults, according to Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell, the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT liaison.
A date in Superior Court for the six suspects is set for Aug. 2, Powell said.
The six teens are charged with a “bias crime,” the same as a hate crime. While Georgia does not have a state hate crimes law, there is the recently passed federal hate crimes law — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Act. Atlanta Police have asked the FBI to help in the investigation of the crime to determine if it falls under the federal hate crimes statute.
Rev. Josh Noblitt of Saint Mark United Methodist Church and his partner were attacked and robbed by gunpoint in Piedmont Park on July 2. Before they were attacked, the couple was asked by the alleged assailants if they were gay.
“They walked up directly to us and asked, ‘Are y’all gay? Two men laying on a blanket. We ought to beat y’all for that,’” Noblitt told the Georgia Voice.
Noblitt, a social justice minister at his church who works with teens in the criminal justice system, has said he is torn about the age of the suspects.
The fact one of the suspects is only 13 is “heartbreaking,” Noblitt said.
“I’m more sad than angry,” he added. “There’s a story that leads up to a choice being made … and I wonder what the story is for all of them.”
Noblitt held a community picnic on July 18 at the same spot where he was robbed to bring “collective healing” and build new memories in the space.
Here’s a video of him speaking at the picnic.