Hate Crime

We got a call last night that Alex was in the hospital in Harrisonburg and would be soon having a CAT scan to see if he had any damage to his brain. He was transferred to UVA hospital in Charlottesville. We drove through the early morning darkness to get him. It is not good, but it looks like he will make a full & rapid recovery, fortunately, although he will have some scars and will be in pain for a while. We hope follow up exams find nothing new. The story that we learned between that call and now is troubling. I don’t know if I have all the details down right, but let me try.

Alex was attacked by six young men in what evidently was an act of random hateful violence. They hit him over the head by a beer bottle, so Alex doesn’t remember much about the attack.  What we learned came from witnesses, the police & the perpetrators themselves.    

Alex remembers someone running past him and then he was on the ground being kicked by six guys. What happened, according to witnesses, is that these guys  wanted to beat somebody up. Their first victim was the guy that ran past Alex, but as they chased him they decided Alex would do just as well.  So one of them hit Alex with a beer bottle from behind and the others joined in the beating. The original victim called the police, who were already in the area and quickly arrived; this and bystanders scared the perpetrators off before they did lasting damage.

The police told Alex that they caught the guys who did it and that they would probably be charged with felony assault. Alex and the running kid were not the only ones they attacked last night.  This was not a simple case of drunk and disorderly.  These guys were looking for someone to hurt. They didn’t know Alex; they didn’t try to rob him, ask him anything at all or even look him in the face before smashing him over the head and commencing the beating.  The motivation was simply atavistic hatred, based on nothing, nothing at all, maybe a lust to do violence.

How do you deal with someone who wants nothing from you except to do you harm? We look for motivations.  We might feel more at ease if they had tried to steal Alex’s wallet or if we could discover how he antagonized them in even a trivial way.  But there is no comfort there. 

Chrissy is staying with Alex in Harrisonburg tonight and maybe tomorrow to make sure he is okay.  Espen had been up there visiting one of his old HS friends who also attends school up there.  He didn’t know about Alex until we told him this morning. I drove back with Espen and we talked along the way.  It seems the block party got out of hand generally. People were throwing beer bottles.   

Espen and his friend headed toward his friend’s dorm room and Alex went toward his, which was only a short distance from where he was attacked. Unfortunately for Alex, his dorm was right in the middle of a place where lots of rowdy people were gathering and Alex had to walk through the crowds.  Fortunately, the police were there too and that is probably what ended up saving him from a more severe beating.

The cops interviewed Alex. They took pictures of his various injuries and examined his bloody clothes, but he couldn’t tell them much that was helpful, but there are lots of witnesses and the perpetrators are evidently talking. I am interested to see how this case plays out and I want to learn more.  I don’t know anything about the perpetrators and I will admit that I am more than a little angry at them for hurting my boy. But I think there also is a rational argument for making sure this does not get passed along. I don’t think the attackers are hardened criminals but the kind of hatred and violence that went into this attack is dangerous. It is not something we can ignore or forgive.  Letting the attackers too easily off the hook would do them no favors if the lesson they learn is that what they did is no big deal.  It is something we have to confront.