The forceful removal of a group of transgender women and a gay man from a Los Angeles bar is being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said Monday.
Cell phone video showing security guards shoving and dragging two transgender women and a gay man out of the downtown bar was widely shared on social media over the weekend. Top police officials and Mayor Eric Garcetti promised a thorough investigation.
A complaint about an incident at Las Perlas bar Friday was filed with police and detectives are investigating, said department spokesman Officer Jay Chaves.
"Los Angeles is a place where hate against any person, regardless of gender identity, is not tolerated. My office is in communication with @LAPDHQ about the incident at Las Perlas, and will ensure a proper investigation is completed," Garcetti said in a tweet.
Khloe Rios, who recorded the video, said she and a group of colleagues from Bienestar Human Services, a nonprofit that focuses on health issues in Latino and LGBTQ communities, were having dinner when a straight couple approached them and started yelling slurs.
"They said, 'You guys are all men. You are not women. You don't belong here,'" Rios said.
Rios, a program manager at the nonprofit, said she and her friends ignored the comments but then the woman became more aggressive and spat at them, pushed her and slapped a colleague.
The group stood up and huddled together to protect each other and that's when security guards intervened and asked everyone to leave. They escorted the couple out but became aggressive with them, pushing and shoving them and even dragging one of her colleagues by the neck, she said.
"We thought the security team was going to protect us but instead they threw us out like trash," Rios said.
Outside, the couple continued to yell slurs at them and threatened to kill them, she said. The couple ran away when they saw police patrol cars approaching, she added.
"Every single day I see trans women being harassed, being bullied and being discriminated. This was a horrible experience," Rios said. "I knew I needed to record this to show how they treat us."
Cedd Moses, chief executive of Pouring With Heart, which owns the bar, said in a statement posted to the Las Perlas' Facebook page on Saturday the incident was "an escalated verbal altercation" that led the manager to remove those patrons who didn't comply with a request to leave.
After a protest outside the bar that prompted the bar to close Saturday night, Moses apologized to the transgender community and said the security company working at the bar would be replaced.
"We are committed to working with the community and we are researching the right partner to help us move forward in the most positive way possible including staff and vendor training," he wrote in a statement Sunday.