July 13, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Black Wil-Hi student, 15, requires facial reconstruction surgery after assault

9 min read
Dr. Silky Booker: There's not a lot of wanting to call things as it is in Eugene, I'm finding, in a lot of these arenas where racial evidence is present. Beating somebody to where their face is fractured while screaming the N-word, I mean, it gets no more racial than that.

Reports of a shocking beating of a Black Willamette High School student. The Eugene Police Commission hears on March 14 from Dr. Silky Booker:

Dr. Silky Booker (Eugene Police Commission, March 14, 2024): My comments have to do with the incident that happened at Willamette High School. There was a young Black boy named Julian that was severely beaten by a white student that followed him home and basically beat him to the point to where he had to have facial reconstruction.

I spoke with the mother today. And she voiced her concerns as to the response, the treatment she received, and how EPD (Eugene Police Department) handled the situation. So I wanted to share those sentiments. She basically felt that the officer was dismissive at first, when they first arrived to gather or collect information.

She thought that it did switch once she showed her aggravation with the police and how they were addressing her and telling her that it wasn’t a racial incident before they even collected her side of the story. She did give praise to Officer Cooper to say did a wonderful job and that it was better than she had expected to be her interaction with EPD.

[00:01:16] She would like to see more training on the approach when someone is responding to a racially-motivated situation, especially even if they think it’s not racially motivated, so they completely cancel that out. And she also said about the labeling of a situation, when they tell her that the situation is not racial—when she’s telling them it is—before they are actually gathering the information.

[00:01:41] As I’m aware, the boy who committed the assault got arrested. More issues dealing with that. But more importantly, the issues started on campus 20 days before this assault took place. So even though it took place off-campus, a lot of the incidents and the bullying took place on campus 20 days prior to the incident happening. So there was a lot of buildup to this assault.

[00:02:10] John Q: Addressing Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner later in the meeting:

[00:02:15] Dr. Silky Booker (Eugene Police Commission, March 14, 2024): I know you’re ongoing with the investigation, but there’s not a lot of wanting to call things as it is in Eugene, I’m finding, in a lot of these arenas where racial evidence is present. Beating somebody to where their face is fractured while screaming the N-word, I mean, it gets no more racial than that. I understand your investigation is ongoing, but I do hope that the cultural translation here equates to a hate crime.

[00:02:47] William Parham (Eugene Police Commission): I would like to task the city, I think, with looking into civil penalties that could be levied to people who are convicted of bias crimes. Because as a person of color, a Black person in this community. I feel remarkably unsafe. And so I task you all: Help us, please.

[00:03:13] Dr. Silky Booker (Human Rights Commissioner, March 19, 2024): I’d just like to bring to this board’s attention a racial assault event that took place on a Willamette High School student named Julian. He’s autistic as well. I brought his mother to the Police Commission meeting. So she got to hear this discussion in the Police Commission meeting but I wanted to make sure that the Human Rights Commission meeting was aware of it.

[00:03:33] He was targeted over 20 days, then beat so bad that he needed facial reconstruction. The boy targeted him and yelled racial slurs while he was doing it.

[00:03:46] I guess there’s still an open investigation. The mother’s been interviewed. The story was on KVAL and KEZI news reports.

[00:03:53] So I guess the motion I wanted to bring to the board was that the city ensure an investigation into the racially-targeted assault and disgusting racial berating against this Willamette High School student.

[00:04:09] The city needs to have a voice on this particular situation, especially given the racial climate we’re about to enter with the election coming up.

[00:04:21] Lt. Jeremy Williams (Eugene Police Department): My name is Jeremy Williams. I’m a lieutenant in the Eugene Police Department currently assigned to the Investigations Division… The case that Commissioner Booker mentioned early on is particularly shocking.

[00:04:31] This involved 15-year-olds. The victim is pretty substantially injured, kind of in a way we don’t see real often (fortunately), but it makes it extra shocking.

[00:04:43] So this occurred on Feb. 27. An arrest was made on Feb. 28, the following day. And so in this case, a youth of color, a Black young man, was walking home from school. He was accosted by a group of people including a white youth, again, 15 years old. He was challenged to fight, didn’t want to fight. The offender was persistent and essentially coerced him into fighting, saying it would be worse if he didn’t agree. That gave it sort of a pretense of consent. However, that wasn’t the case. There’s no question that this was not mutual combat. This was a young man who got assaulted.

[00:05:25] In fact, one of the bystanders tried to intervene, a young lady. The fight commenced anyway and this young man was beaten. He was punched. When he fell to the ground, he was kneed by the suspect.

[00:05:41] As Commissioner Booker already mentioned, he suffered some facial fractures and the last I heard was that they were going to require some reconstructive surgery to repair.

[00:05:52] The witnesses were interviewed. The suspect was contacted and interviewed and he tried to initially say that there was some kind of mutual aspect to it.

[00:06:02] However, the evidence just doesn’t corroborate that statement. So he was physically taken into custody and he was lodged at Serbu (Juvenile Justice Center) on felony assault, coercion, and disorderly conduct in the second degree.

[00:06:16] I know that that case is still open and under investigation both by the officer and by the district attorney’s office for potential additional charges.

[00:06:26] Dr. Silky Booker (Human Rights Commissioner, March 19, 2024): Every incident that happens when it involves a Black citizen, the NAACP should be aware of it and notified.  I think this would have never got the attention it received had I not had the conversation with the mother.

[00:06:37] I came across it on Facebook. Once I saw it and read it on Facebook, I immediately started making necessary phone calls to see how this particular incident could be elevated.

[00:06:50] Given that I’m on the Police Commission, I wanted to make sure that I had the mother’s full story as to what transpired and get her take on attending the Police Commission meeting and hearing it discussed.

[00:07:03] She wasn’t even aware that the Police Commission existed nor that the Human Rights Commission existed. But getting her story told to me and getting this kind of racial incident to the forefront is imperative.

[00:07:16] And a lot of times, and I see this a lot living here for seven years, a lot of the Black on white or white on Black racism that we see here is always trying to be called by another name other than racism. That’s by design.

[00:07:32] So that in itself needs to be worked on, is: How do we get the racial language clarified? So that when someone is yelling the N-word whilst beating somebody’s face in and kneeing them when they’re not fighting back, list it as a hate crime.

[00:07:51] More needs to be done. I mean, it’s ridiculous that this type of situation is not being talked about at every level within our city.

[00:08:00] It is atrocious what happened to this young man. He’s autistic, which tells you he didn’t even, never been in a fight. You don’t just say, ‘Oh yeah, you can beat me up.’ It doesn’t happen.

[00:08:12] So for this autistic young man to be beat this way, and he was targeted because of his skin color, we’ve got to be better at calling it what it is. It was racist, it was racism, it was a hate crime, and more needs to be done to protect Black children within all these school systems, ’cause not enough is being done at all.

[00:08:38] Demond Hawkins (Local NAACP president and Human Rights Commission): I agree that there is a lot of racism that’s happening in the school system and we’re seeing that, right? That is again something that needs to be addressed.

[00:08:48] As we talk about this with the reporting side of it, our communities know not just by the police, but by every avenue available, for them to report any hate or bias crimes to make sure that they can get that information out. Wherever they feel safe to report that, they need to be able to report that.

[00:09:06] NAACP needs to be the one that has that backup support for them, not only with the incident itself, but back out to the organizations that they’ve been dealing with that have let them down, right? So we are there for that as well. So there’s always a lot of things going on in the background that people don’t know and see that’s happening to help and support.

[00:09:31] Blake Burrell (Human Rights Commission): We’ll be discussing the incident at Bethel Schools as we provide and follow up on producing a statement for the Human Rights Commission. So I think that this will warrant some of the dialogue around engagement with community partners and where we want to provide recommendations in this space.

[00:09:46] John Q: A shocking beating of a Black student allegedly follows 20 days of bullying at school. The Bethel School District is currently on spring break, but said they would provide a statement as soon as possible.

UPDATE (March 26, 2024): The family has established a GoFundMe for Julian. The Bethel School District shared the following message from Superintendent Craig Sproles sent to all staff on March 20, 2024:

From: Kraig Sproles
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 3:01 PM
Subject: Recent incidents of hate speech and racialized violence

Good afternoon, Bethel Staff. 

I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out to address questions and concerns following recent incidents of hate speech and racialized violence in the Bethel community.

First, I want to clearly state that racism, hate, and violence have no place in Bethel. 

In Bethel, we lead with care and kindness. As a No Place for Hate school district, we are committed to fostering a community of inclusion, respect, and kindness. One of the ways we reinforce these values is through our Sources of Strength programming, which empowers students to create a positive school culture and support each other in times of need.

We also encourage our students, staff and families to be upstanders, not bystanders, when it comes to racist, violent or hateful acts – to recognize when something is wrong and to take action. This could mean taking immediate action, reporting the incident or helping the victim.

Even with those impactful programs – and an incredible team of staff across the district who are committed to serving as trusted adults and fostering safe and inclusive learning spaces – there are times when disciplinary action must be taken. Engaging in physical violence will result in disciplinary action at school, including suspensions up to possible expulsion, as well as possibly legal consequencesWe also cannot endorse a culture where students witness and record acts of violence. Participation in acts of violence, including recording them, can lead to similar consequences.

Bethel is currently working in partnership with our local Eugene-Springfield NAACP, the Lane African American/Black Student Success, the Western States Center, Eugene City Council members, Bethel School Board members and other organizations to learn more about how we can work together to stand against racism, hate and violence.

Ways to report unsafe of concerning behaviors

In Bethel, we have a number of ways for families, students, and staff to immediately report unsafe or concerning behaviors. Every report is taken seriously and investigated. Whether it’s reaching out to a trusted adult, utilizing the SafeOregon Tip Line, or using our Anonymous Alerts system, we encourage you to speak up if you have any concerns.

Tools for interrupting hate speech and responding to hateful or racist acts

Included below is a short list of resources both for understanding and standing against racism, hate, harassment and biased language, as well as some resources for how to talk with children about violence.

Thank you to all of the upstanders who have reached out in the past few weeks to voice concerns and inquire about what’s being done to address racist and hateful comments, as well as physical violence in the Bethel community. I appreciate that you care for our students and want these sorts of incidents to be addressed.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions or concerns. Thank you for your continued partnership in keeping our school community safe.

Kraig Sproles
Bethel School District

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