Hate crime victim: 'I thought I was going to die'

Hate crime victim: 'I thought I was going to die' »Play Video
Police work at the scene Friday morning.

GRESHAM, Ore. - A 24-year-old man lured to a park under a ruse he was meeting a man for sex said Friday it was his first time meeting a stranger for such a date.

Within seconds after he arrived, things turned violent.

When Adam Salnardi went to Vance Park in Gresham, he first saw a man in a mask, and then, suddenly, he said he was being kicked and punched as a group surrounded him, calling him derogatory terms.

"Next thing I know, I'm getting socked from behind. First, I see these guys standing behind these trees," he said. "They start punching me. I fall to the ground."

The assailants had guns, he said.

"They kept kicking me. They took my shoes. Just left me there with no shoes on," Salnardi said. "I thought I was going to die. Once I saw the gun, I thought I was going to die."

Salnardi, who walked away with minor injuries, shared his story with KATU News. His attackers -- whom police said targeted Salnardi because he is gay -- were arrested as part of a hate crime investigation.

Investigators said the suspects, four juveniles and one adult, lured the Clackamas man through a dating website under the ruse that he would be meeting a homeless man who needed his help.

They had planned to meet the man at midnight at the park.

“We were just talking and he told me wanted to hang out, that he was homeless, I thought maybe I’d be able to help him and I just go there to meet him," Salnardi said.

Justin Simms

When the man arrived at the park, investigators said the group stole his wallet, cellphone and other personal items during the attack.

Asked whether he believed he was targeted because of his sexuality, Salnardi said: "Possibly. I only had $10 in my wallet."

"When I was on the ground, they called me a f--- and just calling me rude names," Salnardi said.

The group fled the scene, but were late caught by police. Three 16-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl were placed in custody on suspicion of second-degree robbery, first-degree intimidation and third-degree assault. Because of their ages, they are not being identified.

A 19-year-old Gresham man, Justin Simms, also was arrested on robbery and assault charges.

A woman who lives across from the park said the victim ran to her house and knocked her door. She called 911.

Police believe this group may have attacked other gay men using the same ruse, possibly also at Vance Park or in the surrounding area.

Anyone who has experienced a similar attack is asked to call Gresham police Detective Scott Hogan at 503-618-3141.

Salnardi said he decided to appear on TV with his story to encourage other alleged victims to take a stand.

“Maybe they don’t want people knowing about it, maybe they feel ashamed, but I’m here to take a stand,” Salnardi said.