"It's an unusual crime. Normally you see it filed in federal court," Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said. The only other hate crime case in the county she recalled was in 1991, when a white juvenile was charged with attacking an Asian child.
It's not just race that can trigger the hate crime law. The statute says attacks motivated by religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation and sex can also be classified as hate crimes.
Bates, who is white, went to the club with a black woman he has been dating but, "It had nothing to do with me being with her ... I don't even know if he knew I was with her," Bates said.
Bates, a carpenter, was in the bathroom talking with a black friend when "this guy asked me if I made a racial remark." Bates told the man he had not but, "He just continually told me I was a racist."
Bates said the owner and a bouncer broke up the confrontation, and there was never a fight in the bar between the men.
There were two more confrontations initiated by the suspect, Bates said. He said the man kept making racial slurs toward him and that at one point Bates' black friend grabbed the man.
Bates was told to leave the bar, but the person who drove him there was unaware he was gone and he had to wait in the parking lot. He said his date joined him a few minutes later and then the suspect came outside.
According to Bates, the suspect's brother tried to keep him away from Bates. His date also was between them when "he threw around her at me," stabbing him in the wrist.
"At the time I really didn't know what happened," Bates said. He grabbed the man and while they struggled on the ground Bates was stabbed several more times in the back and head.
The man then ran off and got into a car, Bates said.
As of Tuesday night the man was still at large. Authorities would not release his name because the warrant had not been served. He also has been charged with malicious wounding.
Bates said he heard the man had "a long rap sheet" and was recently in prison. Games-Neely confirmed he had a criminal record.
If convicted under the 1987 hate crime law, the man could face 10 years in prison.
Bates asked that the name of his girlfriend not be used. "It's creating a lot of tension in her life," he said.