Spirits were high. Diamond Gonzalez and his boyfriend, Ray Carabantes, had put on a successful drag show one night last week at a Pasadena bar and were saying their goodbyes in a nearby parking lot.
Then, without warning, a group of men attacked from behind.
Gonzalez, 33, said he was struck on his temple and everything went black.
When he came to, lying on the ground, his boyfriend and their companions were “fighting for their lives,” Gonzalez said in an interview with The Times on Wednesday — nearly a week after the attack in the early morning hours of March 25.
Gonzalez’s nephew was in a car nearby as assailants tried to smash the windows. Panicked, he threw the car in reverse and accidentally backed over a friend who was knocked out on the ground. Noah Offield, another friend, was injured while shielding Gonzalez from more blows. Amid the melee, Gonzalez said his car was vandalized.
“It was like a freaking horror film,” Gonzalez said. “It was the most evil, demonic thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
“We all thought that we were going to die in that moment,” he said.
One of the entertainers, who performs as Alize, was also attacked that night while dressed in drag, Gonzalez said. His nephew — whom he declined to name — was also part of the show and wearing women’s clothing that night.
Gonzalez said when his friends started fighting back, the assailants fled. Carabantes and Alize followed them into an alley. When Carabantes whipped out his phone to snap a photo of the car they were getting into, one of the assailants pulled out a gun, he said. Carabantes and Alize ran back to their car.
Gonzalez said he and his friends were badly beaten during the attack. He and at least one other victim were taken to a hospital to be treated for their injuries.
The Pasadena Police Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime, citing comments made at the scene by the assailants. Lt. Bill Grisafe, a spokesperson for the department, didn’t provide details about what was said. At least six people were attacked by what Gonzalez estimated to be seven to 10 men.
In a statement posted to social media, the Pasadena Police Department said “it recognizes the importance of protecting the safety and dignity of all of our community members and we stand in solidarity with those affected by the heinous attacks perpetrated last week.”
Gonzalez and Carabantes, 25, began producing a weekly drag show, “Latin Load,” at ix Tapa Cantina in Pasadena’s bustling Old Town about seven months ago. It draws a large LGBTQ+ crowd to the Mexican restaurant and nightclub on Colorado Boulevard, ix Tapa owner Jack Huang said.
Prior to the attack, Gonzalez and Carabantes had considered expanding their drag event to other venues. But now they’re planning on pausing it for several weeks.
“We are going to take a little break on it because everyone is traumatized,” Gonzalez said.
Huang, who has run restaurants in the area for 28 years, was distraught when his staff told him what happened.
“It’s very sad that this kind of stuff is still going on,” Huang said Wednesday. “It just makes you really, really upset and sad.”
Huang and Gonzalez both mentioned the possibility of holding a fundraiser to support the victims as well as send a message of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
In addition to seeking justice for his friends and family, Gonzalez said he spoke out to raise awareness in hopes of preventing similar attacks.
“The LGBTQ+ community needs to feel safe,” he said. “They need to know we can be who we are, we can express ourselves, without being in fear of someone taking our lives for simply being who we are.”