SAVANNAH -- Two Marines were jailed Saturday on misdemeanor battery charges after they beat up a gay man they thought winked at them, according to Savannah-Chatham police.
About 3:45 a.m., a metro police officer was patrolling when he saw two men running on Congress Lane. Moments later, the officer received a call about a man at Congress and Bull streets who was lying on the ground unconscious.
The officer rushed to the intersection and found 26-year-old Kieran Daly unconscious, with friends performing emergency first aid, a report stated.
The officer caught up with the two men who were running, identified as 22-year-old Keil Joseph Cronauer and 23-year-old Christopher Charles Stanzel. Police records show both men are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.
Cronauer and Stanzel told police they were being harassed by a gay man and wanted to get away from him. But witnesses painted a different picture, according to the report.
They told police before the men were seen dashing away from Johnson Square, one of them grew angry because they thought Daly was winking at them and struck Daly in the back of the head with his fist, knocking him unconscious.
Saturday night, from his bed at Memorial University Medical Center, Daly insisted he tried to convince the Marines he was not winking at them.
"The guy thought I was winking at him," Daly said. "I told him, 'I was squinting, man. ... I'm tired.'"
Daly said one of the men told him he demanded respect because he served in Iraq. And at least one hurled slurs at him as he tried to walk away.
"That's the last thing I remember is walking away," Daly said. "I remember the feeling of getting hit, but I only kind of remember it."
Daly said after his friends performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation at the scene, he was taken to Memorial University Medical Center and diagnosed with bruises to his brain. He had two seizures immediately after the attack and was expected to remain at Memorial for the next few days for observation.
Meanwhile, Cronauer and Stanzel were booked into Chatham County jail on battery charges and later released to military police, according to jail and police records.
Daly said he came out six months ago and since has only received a few negative looks and comments. But Saturday's incident left him wondering whether the misdemeanor charge against his suspected attackers was enough.
"It leaves me wondering why Georgia is one of five states that doesn't have a hate crime law on the state level," he said.
Metro police spokeswoman Gena Moore said the incident is being monitored by her department's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender liaison.
Jesse Morgan, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Armstrong State Atlantic University, recently organized a rally downtown to raise awareness of hate against gay Chatham County residents. He said the incident was only one example of what gay Savannahians experience every day.
"We can't even walk on the street and be out and gay on the street," Morgan said. "Our punishment for that is anyone attacking us just for being who we are. This type of behavior has to stop."