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Minneapolis man says he was beaten by bouncer for being gay, restaurant refutes claim

Updated: August 19, 2019 10:14 PM

A man says he was beaten at a St. Paul restaurant because of his sexual orientation.

He believes the person who did it was a bouncer.

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Police are investigating what happened early Sunday morning at the restaurant Barrio.

"The whole time it was happening I really thought I could die," said Ben Sanson-Ngiratregd, who says he was assaulted. 

Ben Sanson-Ngiratregd says he suffered a black eye and a concussion during the incident on Sunday. He tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he was at the bar trying to order drinks when he kissed his boyfriend. But he says someone didn't appreciate that. 

"A guy came behind me and grabbed my shirt," Sanson-Ngiratregd said. "He's like 'You can't do that in here.'"

Sanson-Ngiratregd believes it was a Barrio bouncer and says the man even used a slur towards him.

"He was calling me a very derogatory name for me being gay," Sanson-Ngiratregd said. 

But quickly, the scene inside the bar escalated.

"I told him to get his hands off of me and then he just started punching me in my face," Sanson-Ngiratregd said. "I have bumps and bruises all over my body, I was thrown down cement stairs, dragged across the floor."

St. Paul police are investigating this as an assault. According to a report, Sanson-Ngiratregd was treated at the scene for a laceration on his head. 

"It saddens me, it really does," Sanson-Ngiratregd said. 

Citing witnesses and security cameras, Barrio has a different take on what occurred. The restaurant issued the following statement Monday:

 "We take any allegation that one of our guests was mistreated very seriously. We don't tolerate any form of discrimination or inappropriate conduct by anyone associated with our company.
 
"We are continuing to investigate the incident that took place early Sunday morning at Barrio Lowertown, but based on what we know so far - the account of our security guard as well as those of a number of witnesses and our review of our security footage - we believe our colleague acted only to defend himself and to ensure the safety of our other guests when physically attacked. At no time did any Barrio employee or anyone else associated with our restaurant punch a guest during this incident. Reports that two employees were involved in this altercation are incorrect. 
 
"We provided those accounts to the police and are ready to help them further should they have any additional questions or need further information. 
 
"Again, we want to be 100 percent clear that we welcome everyone to our restaurants. Our teams - including our security and safety personnel - are there to make sure that every patron can enjoy great food and drink in a fun and welcoming environment. Since we opened our first restaurant in 2008 we've been committed to that idea and are grateful to the hundreds of thousands of customers who've shared a meal, a celebration or a special occasion with us."

Despite his injuries and the traumatic experience, Sanson-Ngiratregd insists this won't keep him down. 

"For me personally, I'm not going to let this scare me from going out or going any place," Sanson-Ngiratregd said. "I hope this sends a message."

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Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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