Washington, D.C., police are investigating a possible hate crime after two men said they were attacked this weekend by suspects who hurled homophobic slurs at them and referenced monkeypox. 

The two men were walking in the Shaw neighborhood Sunday evening when they alleged they were approached by two suspects, who they said used an anti-gay slur and referenced monkeypox, before punching them several times, the Metropolitan Police Department said in an incident report. The suspects destroyed one of the victims’ sunglasses before fleeing the scene. 

The two victims were taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said in a news release

Police said they are investigating the assault as “potentially being motivated by hate or bias,” and released images of two persons of interest. 

Police released images of two persons of interest in a potential hate crime in DC

Metropolitan Police Department

In a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that she was “deeply disturbed” by the alleged hate crime, and thanked the Metropolitan Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit for helping with the investigation. 

“Whenever a hate crime happens in our city, it is our collective responsibility to understand the role we each play in building a safer community for all who live in and visit D.C.,” her statement read, in part. “We must stand up for our friends and neighbors, especially now when there is so much anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric sweeping our nation. We must call out the people in our circles if they promote hateful or ignorant ideology, especially right now when people are using public health to stigmatize and discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

The attack comes a week after the White House declared the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. a public health emergency. Through Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tallied at least 9,493 cases nationwide. All but two states — Montana and Wyoming — have reported spotting at least one infection. 

The majority of monkeypox infections are still believed to be spreading through close intimate contact among men who have sex with men. The CDC currently estimates that between 1.6 and 1.7 million Americans are in the groups currently being prioritized for vaccines. They include people who are living with HIV, who are men who have sex with men, and others who are at high risk for HIV.