The FBI confirmed it is investigating the alleged assault on a gay man in Savannah by two U.S. Marines as a possible hate crime under the federal hate crimes law. The Marine Corps is also conducting its own investigation as is the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.

FBI, military investigate alleged gay bashing in Savannah

The two Marines, Keil Cronauer and Christopher Stanzel, were arrested in Savannah over the weekend and charged in the beating of Kieran Daly, 26.

They were charged with misdemeanor battery charges by the SCMPD and then released to military police. They remain under restriction at their base, the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, S.C.

Gay leaders in Georgia are demanding the Marines be charged with a felony.

“I’m very concerned this happened in the first place. But these misdemeanor charges are outrageous,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham. “And then to turn [the Marines] over to the military police is a miscarriage of justice.”

Kevin Clark, director of the Savannah chapter of Georgia Equality, said LGBT residents and allies are urging the Marines be charged with a harsher penalty.

“We are contacting the D.A.’s office to get the charges upgraded to a felony. The GLBT liaison [for Savannah-Chatham police] is hoping she can see to it and said detectives are working the case, taking statements and are on top of it,” Clark said.

New details are emerging from the incident that took place at around 3:45 a.m. Saturday in downtown Savannah.

Daly told police he was eating pizza when the Marines started harassing him, according to a report by WTOC in Savannah.

However, according to the report, the Marines say they were being harassed by Daly and told police they were trying to get away from him.

“Some people might ask were you taunting them,” Daly told WTOC. “No. I was just standing here eating my pizza. The only thing I said to him in a relaxed tone is no I’m not winking at you.” Daly was released from the hospital Sunday.

An official statement has been released by officials at Marine Corp Air Station Beaufort, who said they are also investigating the incident.

Here is the statement:

“Marine Aircraft Group 31 is currently conducting an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged assault over the weekend in Savannah, Ga., involving two MAG-31 Marines. The two Marines in question are currently restricted to the base while the investigation is pending.

“From a preliminary internal investigation the Marines in question stated they were subject to unwanted verbal advances, that they were closely followed, and that a threat was communicated by a member of the other party. Col David Robinson, Commanding Officer, MAG-31 stated, ‘Although this certainly does not justify the actions of the Marine who punched the individual, it is important for us to consider both sides of the story.’

“As with most incidents there are multiple perspectives, accounts and recollections. The facts of this isolated incident will come out through investigations by civilian and military authorities. Although the initial reports from the arresting officer and the media coverage of the incident are widely disparate, we are committed to resolving the inconsistencies between the reports.

“‘The United States Marine Corps does not tolerate discrimination or violence of any kind between military members and the citizens we defend,’ said Col. David Robinson, commanding officer, MAG-31.

“Military authorities and civilian agencies are cooperating. As the investigations shed more light onto the situation, authorities and civilian agencies are cooperating. As the investigations shed more light onto the situation, the appropriate actions will be taken regarding the uniformed service members involvement and if it is determined that civil or criminal laws were broken, the individuals will be held fully accountable.”