The victim in a New Year's Day gay-bashing that turned violent at the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga is not gay.
The 20-year-old man told Eyewitness News that he was targeted as a homosexual, even though he is not one.
Eyewitness News is not releasing the man's name to protect his identity.
"They were yelling gay slurs," said the victim's mother, Michelle Hamilton.
Under New York State law, the suspects can be charged with a hate crime if they perceived the victim as gay or part of a group, class or race, police said.
Joy Darden, 18, and Deonna Burnett, 19, both of Buffalo, are charged with beating the man and attacking him with pepper spray in the mall's parking lot, said police Capt. James Speyer.
"They went after him for that reason and that reason only," he said.
""They followed him through the mall," Hamilton added. She said a group of about 12 people were taunting her son.
But the fathers of both suspects said the young women and the victim have known each other for years and the incident was not a hate crime.
"My daughter has a hundred friends that are gay," said Deonna Burnett's father, Deon Burnett. "They hang out at my restaurant."
Police said they recovered evidence at the scene to support a hate crime allegedly took place, including a note that was placed on the victim's car, which was vandalized, containing anti-gay slurs.
The incident was the first violent gay-bashing within 12 hours in Western New York.
In the early morning hours of New Year's Day, a Buffalo woman was attacked near a popular lesbian nightclub in the city's Allentown neighborhood.
Lindsay Harmon, 29, of Buffalo, said she was called anti-gay slurs by a woman who later stabbed her in the right eye.
Unlike the Cheektowaga case, Buffalo police have yet to rule the attack as a hate crime.
"There would have been no other reason for the whole situation to happen," said Lindsay, who has lost sight in her injured eye.
No arrests have been made in Harmon's attack.
The suspects in the Cheektowaga incident are being held on $30,000 bail.
Joy Darden's father John Darden fears the attention in both cases will hurt his daughter's chances of being treated fairly.
"They're trying to turn it into a hate crime because of the allegations of what happened on Main Street," he said.
Police said the two cases are not related.
Darden and Burnett appeared in Cheektowaga Town Court briefly on Thursday where they waived their right to a felony hearing.
The case was sent to a grand jury for review.