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Gay man claims he was set on fire in 'hate-filled' attack

Gay man set on fire in 'hate-filled' attack in Hillcrest
Posted at 5:40 PM, Jun 19, 2023

EDITOR'S NOTE: ABC 10News interviewed Scott Rowin days before the San Diego Police Department released a statement regarding its investigation into a possible hate crime.

The SDPD report differs from Rowin’s account, saying a man allegedly assaulted a pregnant woman before that woman set the man on fire.

Police said the investigation into that incident is ongoing.

ABC 10News has been unable to reach Rowin for comment on the San Diego Police statement.

UPDATED STORY: San Diego Police: Man set on fire by pregnant woman he allegedly assaulted


SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A man is detailing a walk-turned-nightmare that ended with him being targeted with gay slurs before being set on fire.

“The majority of the burns are on my side torso, hip, and back,” said Scott Rowin, 39. “It’s very painful.”

A week later, moving around remains difficult for Rowin, ever since an evening walk turned into something from a horror movie.

Last Monday night, Rowin says stopped by The Loft on Fifth Avenue and inquired about a job. He left past 8 p.m. and headed south, towards his downtown apartment, intending to call an Uber.

His memory is hazy, but somewhere within a few blocks, he heard what sounded like two people yelling gay slurs.

“Started hearing f*** this, f*** that. The word came up quite a bit,” said Rowin.

With no one around him, Rowin, who is gay, realized the slurs were being directed at him.

“I yelled back a couple of things, ‘Hey, that's f*** up!’” said Rowin.

Moments later, he heard footsteps behind him.

As he turned around, he says he caught a quick glimpse of one of the people, a man in his 20s or 30s. At the same time, he says a liquid was thrown at him, with the consistency of water.

“Immediately after that, I went up like coals on a barbecue. It started off really big,” said Rowin.

On fire, Rowin says stopped, dropped, and rolled on the cement, patting himself and quickly putting out the flames.

“Just in survival mode. Just in the zone, I have to save my life,” said Rowin.

Rowin suffered second-degree burns, mostly along his side and back. It’s unclear if he'll need surgery.

“This is absolutely a hate crime. The slurs were hate-filled,” said Rowin.

As the stream of slurs replays in his mind, Rowin is keenly aware of the upcoming Pride events.

“Nobody walks around with flammable liquid like without an agenda. In my opinion, they were obliviously out there targeting the LGBT community," said Rowin.

Rowin shares his story in hopes of spreading awareness.

“This can still happen in 2023. There are still a lot of haters out there. I don't want this to happen to anyone else. This time it was fire. What will it be next time?” said Rowin.

One of Rowin's wounds did get infected and he'll be going in Tuesday to see if he'll need further care.

A police report was filed. Rowin says he lost a black cap, black shoe, and an AT&T Mobile Hotspot in the attack.

ABC 10News did reach out to the police to see if they're investigating this as a hate crime, and are waiting to hear back.