A hate crime?

Tuesday morning at about 3:30 a.m., seven or eight men emerged from two vehicles and attacked Thom Pham as he was leaving Azia, the restaurant he owns near 26th and Nicollet. Pham, who is a black belt in Judo, fought back, but when it's not the movies, there's really not much one guy can do against eight.

He sustained blunt force trauma to the head, cuts to the skull and face, a broken eye socket, and a concussion, but is, thankfully, on the mend.

The question emerges: Why was he targeted? (Because all indications are that it wasn't a random attack. The assailants didn't take his wallet or steal his car, and Pham tells City Pages that when he arrived at the restaurant at 3:00 a.m., he saw the two vehicles parked nearby. "It looked like somebody knows my routine," said a groggy, heavily-medicated Pham late this afternoon.)

Pham doesn't think it was related to a recent, and well-publicized, incident when he confronted two men who had split on a $400 tab. Two guys who can't afford a nice meal probably can't afford to pay a gang of hooligans to beat him up, Pham points out. (The two men were black, he says, and his attackers were all white or light-skinned.)

One possible motive: Hate. Pham is openly gay, and about a week ago, he says, someone scratched "FAG" in large letters on the back of his car.

Pham says he doesn't know why he was attacked, but wants to find out. "Whatever the reason they're doing it, I'd like to know so I won't do it again," he said.

Friends of Pham have posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.