Lakeview community meets; beating victim speaks

July 6, 2011 8:57:40 PM PDT
The victim of a group beating last Sunday that left him hospitalized says he remembers "fighting for my life."

He was beaten on North Halsted Street on Chicago's North Side. The beating was captured on video.

The victim, a gay DePaul University student, spoke to ABC7 by phone, and ABC7 is not revealing his name to protect his identity. He says the violence erupted after a group of teens, who he says he did not know, hurled what he calls a disrespectful gay slur at him.

"It all started with just an exchange of words. Very simple, very trivial. In hindsight, I shouldn't have responded the way I did and maybe none of this would have happened," said the victim.

Within seconds, he says, the scene spiraled out of control.

"I remember the violence," said the victim. "I remember defending myself; I remember fighting for my life. That's what I remember."

When the attack was over, he says he had sustained five stab wounds that left him with a collapsed lung.

"As I watched the video, I did notice a lot of people trying to get their little cheap shots in, and that just let me know there were a bunch of cowards out there just out to be just vicious and violent for absolutely no reason at all," said the victim.

The victim was still recovering Wednesday night at Illinois Masonic Hospital in stable condition. He hopes to be out of the hospital within the next few days.

Concern about violence in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood was evinced Wednesday night by the number of residents who turned out for a community meeting. Hundreds packed the previously-scheduled CAPS meeting, which turned rowdy and lasted two hours.

"It's a lot harder to provide a solution, than it is just to criticize or place blame," said Ryan Hays at the event.

Some suggested installing emergency call boxes. Others debated about a police crackdown.

"Make no mistake: this is gang activity," said Craig Rathwell at the event.

"You cannot take these people that committed this act of violence... it was violent, but you cannot use this as a way to profile people," said Joshua McCool of Gender Just.

Police said they would take a close look at the suggested solutions from the dozens of speakers Wednesday night.

The attack has raised concerns in the largely safe Lakeview neighborhood, including among some young, gay African-Americans who flock here to be open and out, but now feel targeted by police and some residents.

The neighborhood's alderman, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, says a special detail of police might solve many late-night problems.

"We're asking the police department to create an entertainment district police force similar to what they did in Rush Street back in the day," said Tunney, who attended the meeting Wednesday night.

The suggestion of adding more officers is drawing reaction from other parts of the city.

"I would hope that the same kind of outrage would be across the city and by the rest of the alderman, for where there's children actually being killed and being shot," said Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church.

As far as the Lakeview beating Sunday goes, no one was in custody Wednesday night.

The victim says Sunday night started like so many others. He was out with a few friends when they encountered another, much larger group of men.

"I was surrounded after the exchange of words and I didn't back down, and so I got hit from behind, and that was when I started to defend myself," said the victim.

The victim had hoped doctors would let him leave the hospital so he could attend Wednesday night's community policing meeting, but it was only Wednesday afternoon that they drained enough fluid from a collapsed lung to remove a tube.

Other than that, he says he is feeling good and hopes to lend his voice to the campaign to keep that section of Lakeview safe for everyone.

"I don't want that mob to ruin it for people like me that genuinely come out there just to have fun, and to mingle and to socialize," said the victim. "I hope justice gets served, because this can't continue."

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