|Student attacked, thought to be hate crime|
|Written by Elizabeth Brei, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Monday, 30 April 2012 20:21|
Eric Unger, senior family relations major, was attacked in the early morning Sunday, April 22 on Willow Street by a group of six to eight African-American men.
In an interview with radio station WMBD 31, Unger said they approached him when he was walking home alone from a party, at which point they knocked his phone from his hand and began shouting anti-gay slurs.
Eric responded by asking them to let him go home.
“I just said, you know, ‘I don’t want to start anything. I just want to go home. I don’t know why you’re starting a fight with me. I just want to go home,’” he said.
In the attack, which is under investigation by the Normal Police Department, Unger suffered a fractured jaw, missing teeth, and cuts and scrapes to his face. He was taken by ambulance to Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal.
Unger, who is openly gay, considers the attack a hate crime. His family shares this opinion.
“They punched him so hard he was knocked unconscious,” Jill Unger, Eric’s sister, said in an interview. “They were yelling anti-gay slurs, and that is a hate crime.”
Aaron Woodruff, chief of the ISU Police Department, said it is difficult to say this is a hate crime without speculating.
“Based on [the initial report], it did not appear to be a hate crime,” he explained. “But based on what the victim said in interviews, it might have been.”
Stu Unger, Eric’s father, said he was shocked that something like this could happen to his son.
“[I have] a sense of sadness for my son, who is a believer in people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, colors, and nationalities,” he said. “He hasn’t given up hope. He wants to help people no matter what.”
ISU President Al Bowman issued a statement expressing his feelings about the attack. He also commented on the fire that burned down the Occupy BloNo tent that sat in Milner Plaza.
“We all encounter ideas we disagree with and people we don’t like. But responses that involve destruction and violence are unacceptable at Illinois State, a university that holds diversity as one of its core values,” he said.
Bowman added ISU will show no tolerance where codes of conduct have been ignored and crimes have been committed.
“I remind everyone that Illinois State is a university that values differences, and I ask that you do your best to put those values into action every day,” he said.
Eric and Stu Unger both expressed they would like to see NPD and ISUPD doing more to protect ISU students.
“I’d like to see better safety on campus with the police,” Eric said. “Instead of busting kids for drinking, they should be protecting us better at night.”
“I want ISU and the Normal police to pick up the pace a little in patrols late at night,” Stu said.
Woodruff said the street on which Eric was attacked has a lot of traffic, even late at night on the weekends, and thinks someone must have seen what happened.
“There’s somebody out there who knows something,” Woodruff said. “They are our best resource for trying to solve this.”
Eric has returned to ISU, where he will graduate this May.
“He is not going to have his ambitions derailed,” Stu said.