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Man Punched In The Face Presses Hate Crime Charges

An openly gay Santa Barbara man said he is healing from a hate crime that left him with a black eye and a concussion.

Richard Schiwietz said he was punched in the left temple around 7 p.m., Oct. 4, after dining with his ex partner, who he considers his best friend.

As they walked with their arms linked down State St. past De La Guerra, Schiwietz said a man called them names, gave them the finger and and made a rude comment about his mother.

“As a gay member of the community I was assaulted right on State Street,” Schiwietz said.

Schiwietz said he dialed 911 after being punched and ran after the man as he tried to run away.

Witnesses said they saw the suspect temporarily pull his pants down in parking lot 10 and claim he was raped.

Police arrested 54-year-old John Harlan Savala a short time later on State Street. Schiwietz identified Savala as his attacker and told the police he wanted to press hate crime charges.

Schiweitz decided to speak out publicly on National Coming Out Day to raise awareness. The founders of NCOD believe homophobia thrives in silence.

Schiweitz said there seems to be a current climate of hate.

“It feels like the anger is almost palpable at times, and I feel like I’m getting residuals built up in people, all kinds of people. towards all kinds of people, different people,” said Schiweitz.

The Pacific Pride Foundation is planning to host a gathering where Schiwietz and his best friend said the attack happened on Tuesday Oct. 18.

Organizers plan to meet at De La Guerra Plaza at 6 p.m., and then walk to the corner of State St.

“Our community is concerned right now. Richard has been living in Santa Barbara for nearly 15 years and is friends with members of our board of directors. Knowing this can happen to LBGTQ+ people any time, anywhere is a reality for many of us. But when it happens in your hometown, with others looking on, that reality is painful. We at Pacific Pride Foundation work hard every day for the equal rights and treatment of our LGBTQ+ neighbors. And we are calling on our community to step in and support one another when you see or hear violence on our streets. The gathering on the 18th will be a start,” said Colette Schabram, the executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation in Santa Barbara.

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