More than four months after being assaulted in what the Port Angeles Police Department and FBI are investigating as a hate crime, Quinn Smith, a 22-year-old black man, is still looking for answers. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

More than four months after being assaulted in what the Port Angeles Police Department and FBI are investigating as a hate crime, Quinn Smith, a 22-year-old black man, is still looking for answers. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Still wary after racial attack in Port Angeles; four months later, police still investigating

By Jesse Major and Paul Gottlieb

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — More than four months after being assaulted in a suspected hate crime, 22-year-old Quinn Smith still looks over his shoulder as he goes about his business.

“Growing up my whole life, I’ve been used to being called racial slurs,” Smith said Friday.

“That’s part of growing up being colored.

“But I’ve never been attacked over my skin color.

“That was a game changer to me.”

Smith, a Peninsula College student who moved to Port Angeles earlier this year, told police he was assaulted at about 2 a.m. July 17 between the Eighth Street bridges by a young white man who was accompanied by about a half-dozen other young people.

“It’s the first time in my life where I didn’t feel like a human being,” he told the Peninsula Daily News.

He told police his assailant repeatedly yelled the N-word at him.

Police, who have since been joined by the FBI, have not closed the investigation into what they have referred to as an alleged hate crime.

Authorities do not have enough information to put the joint investigation to rest and make a charging recommendation to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, officials said this week.

In several recent interviews, Smith said he is still struggling with the consequences of the attack, during which he was not seriously injured.

For him, the psychological and emotional impact was far more damaging.

“Psychologically, it’s still messing with me to this day,” he said.

Smith said he is hyper-aware of his surroundings.

Even when he pumps gas, he’s constantly watching over his shoulder, wary of who’s around him.

Smith reported to police he was attacked while walking alone in a residential neighborhood at South Cedar and Ninth streets.

He said there were probably four teenage boys and two teenage girls — though he didn’t know for sure — who confronted him after driving up in three vehicles.

It was dark, he said.

The attack happened quickly.

“As I got closer one of the kids starting approaching me and then as he got closer, he started calling me a [N-word],” he said.

“Next thing I know, he’s putting his forehead up against my forehead, basically cussing at me, saying ‘What are you doing here, [N-word]?’ ”

Smith said he did not resist as the man punched him three or four times in the face while the rest of the group watched on. He has said he was afraid for his life.

They just watched as he was being pummelled and did nothing to stop the attack, Smith said.

The man stopped hitting him, and as a second male approached him, Smith quickly pulled out his cellphone and called 9-1-1.

The group fled, he said.

As they drove away, Smith took a photo of one of the license plates. That helped investigators identify a suspected assailant and the person who drove the suspected attacker away within a week of the assault.

Smith was transported by ambulance to Olympic Medical Center, where he was treated for a facial abrasion and a black eye.

During the attack, Smith said he felt numbed.

“This kid who hit me, he had complete power over the situation,” he said.

“There was one of me and a whole bunch of his friends.

“If I fought back and defended myself against him, I’d have had a whole other situation to deal with.”

Smith has been working with a victim’s advocate from Dove House Advocacy Services in Port Townsend.

Until meeting with an officer Tuesday, Smith hadn’t talked with police about the case since early September, he said.

Family from out of state questioned Smith about the case’s progress over Thanksgiving, but he didn’t have any answers at the time.

Now, after talking to police Tuesday, Smith said he is feeling confident his assailant will be arrested.

The Port Angeles Police Department denied a public records request from the Peninsula Daily News for the police report on the assault because the case is still under investigation.

Police Chief Brian Smith said Tuesday that two males who were identified after the assault remain suspects.

One allegedly hit the victim while the other allegedly drove the assailant away, Police Chief Smith said.

The chief said police have interviewed them both.

He said the man who was attacked has examined their photos but has not been able to make a strong enough identification to make arrests.

The police chief said the department has executed a data-retrieval search warrant to cellphone service-provider Verizon to determine the locations of people involved in the assault through GPS coordinates and text, email and voice communications.

“We have to be able to actually prove who committed the crime,” Brian Smith said.

The FBI is assisting the Port Angeles Police Department in the investigation, with the PAPD as the lead agency.

Ayn Dietrich, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle office, said the agent from the Poulsbo bureau is investigating the case for possible federal civil rights violations.

“We’re keeping the U.S. Attorney’s Office apprised of where we are,” Dietrich said.

The man who was attacked said the FBI has not interviewed him.

Dietrich would not comment on that or any other details of the investigation.

“It’s not unusual for us that we are still investigating at this point,” she said.

Brian Smith said Tuesday he did not know when the investigation would be finished.

“We would hope it would be sooner rather than later,” Smith said.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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