Rock Hill station WRHI contributed to this report
A bill set to be introduced next week in the Statehouse would create a hate crimes law in South Carolina.
Rep. John King (D-York) told Rock Hill station WRHI he is bringing the bill forward after 19-year-old Joshua Esskew, who is gay, was beaten outside the Spot Convenience Store on Cherry Road in Rock Hill earlier this month.
The legislation would create an additional punishment for a violent crime if the victim was targeted due to their race, religion, or sexual orientation. King says right now there is no hate crimes law in South Carolina, although the state is covered under similar federal laws.
It gives our local sheriffs and municipal police officers the tools to work with…as to a state law that deals with hate crime. I think we need to have something more local that deals with hate crime.
The bill would call for a sentence between 2 and 15 years for anyone found guilty under the law.
King introduced a similar bill last year that gained no traction. He says there is more support this time around and hopes the bill will be given a hearing in subcommittee. South Carolina is one of five states that does not have a hate crimes law.
Esskew was at the Spot Convenience Store on April 9 when he said a man called him a derogatory term. After he yelled back, he was hit in the head with a malt bottle. He said he tried to fight back and was immediately attacked by several other people in the station’s parking lot.
The crime made national headlines after security camera footage was released and went viral.
No arrests have yet been made, although York County Sheriff’s deputies say they are treating the case as an assault by a mob.