FBI launches hate crime investigation into hot water attack on gay Atlanta couple
Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden (WSB-TV)

The FBI has launched an investigation to determine if an attack on two gay men who were seriously burned last month when hot water was poured on them as they slept in a suburban Atlanta apartment was a hate crime, a spokesman said on Monday.

Martin Blackwell, 48, was arrested on state aggravated battery charges after the Feb. 12 incident and remains jailed, records show.

Blackwell, who dates the mother of one of the victims, told police he attacked the men because he was disgusted by their relationship.

"They'll be all right. It was just a little hot water on them," he said, according to police documents cited by WSB-TV.

A lawyer for Blackwell could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Atlanta office "has initiated a federal civil rights-based investigation to determine whether the federal hate crime statute will apply," FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said.

Victims Anthony Gooden Jr., 23, and Marquez Tolbert, 21, spent two days and 10 days, respectively, in the hospital to be treated for their burns, College Park police detective Gerald Riser said.

"The pain doesn't let you sleep," Tolbert told WSB. "It's just, like, it's excruciating, 24 hours a day, and it doesn't go anywhere."

Online fund-raising efforts to help pay the men's medical bills have generated more than $120,000 in donations, according to the gofundme.com website.

(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Dan Grebler)