I haven't written about the Craig Cohen case yet, but it's time to get started. He was the man brutally beaten by numerous assailants on April 6 in Wilton Manors after leaving the Peter Pan Diner. The beating left the 47-year-old Cohen in a coma; he died on October 7 from his injuries.
Though it appeared to be a clear case of gay bashing, the Broward Sheriff's Office announced that it was actually just a random robbery and not a hate crime. Sheriff Al Lamberti then said during a vigil for Cohen, who worked at the Broward County School Board for 25 years, that it would indeed be investigated as a hate crime.
So far a total of three people -- Pargu Leandro, Victor Gonzalez, and Chad Olah -- have been arrested in the attack. I don't know what motiveated those men to do what they did, but I can tell you that Cohen's friends and family believe it was a hate crime. Here's a passage from a note I received from one of his friends. I intend to tell another part of the story on Monday.
I spoke with you regarding doing a story on Craig Cohen. As you know, he was attacked by 6 "men" as he was walking home from the Peter Pan Diner on April 6th. They left him for dead, however, a passerby called 911. The first responding officer was Jonathan Bleiweiss, I believe, the BSO deputy arrested for having sex with
immigrants. BSO stated it was a robbery, that his keys and cell phone were stolen. They later reported that Craig's cell phone was probably kicked from his hand as he attempted to call 911. His phone was given to a homeless man at the nearby gas station by the attackers..doesn't sound like a robbery to us. In addition, the officer went to Craig's apartment to see if everything was okay, we believe it was he who had the keys.
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After school board staff generously donated to crime stoppers, we were able to reach a $5000 reward for the attackers. Days later, Pargu Leandro and Victor Gonzalez were arrested from an anonymous tip to crime stoppers . As I sat in the courtroom, there was no remorse, the pair were joking and laughing. We visited Craig daily in Broward General, at first, he was under the name "trauma brown" to protect him. After six unsuccessful brain surgeries, there was nothing more they could do.
He was transferred to Kindred Care for a couple days before we were able to get him into Southeast Hospice of Ft. Lauderdale, in a peaceful serene setting. As we watched him slip away from us for 6 months, he gave up his fight and passed away. Craig was blind from the attack, remained in a coma, paralyzed in a vegetation state. He was going to retire next year after 25 years with the School Board. He had purchased land in northern Florida to build an animal sanctuary. I'm sure you know these scum attacked a 2nd man after Craig who is fortunate to be alive today. Now we have just heard that Pargu Leandro and Olah (the Ft. Laud High School Senior arrested last week) were involved in a stabbing in Boca Raton. ... However, to our knowledge, nothing was done. Even though witnesses picked them out of a lineup. In our opinion, Had these two been arrested, Craig would probably be alive today.
My next report will be on the Boca Raton case.