An openly gay Illinois State University student is recovering from several injuries he suffered from what he said was an antigay hate-inspired attack near the Normal campus early Saturday morning.
Eric Unger, a 23-year-old family relations major at ISU, said he was walking up to his apartment in the 100 block of west Willow Street after a party around 2:30 a.m., when he stopped to make a phone call. Unger alleges a group of six to eight men passed behind him and one of them knocked his phone out of his hand.
Unger said he asked “what their problem was,” and that’s when the men began to verbally and physically batter him.
“They said things like, ‘You fucking faggot do you want to get your ass beat?’” Unger said. “I believe they attacked me because I was alone, white and gay.”
He remembers pleading with the attackers, saying he just wanted to go home and that he “didn’t want to fight.”
When the attack was over, Unger called police and was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was released three hours later with broken teeth, two broken bones in his jaw and scrapes on his face and left elbow, he said. Unger’s dentist had to wire his jaw shut for the next four to six weeks, leaving him with limited speech and on a liquid-only diet as he recovers.
Normal Police said there were no witnesses and they are investigating the attack with consideration of the information regarding the anti-gay slurs, but that they have not yet classified it as a hate crime.
“At this point, that’s part of our investigation,” said Chief of Police Rick Bleichner. “Initially, there was no claim about that. That’s why we are doing the investigation to determine anything further about that.”
Originally from north suburban Deerfield, Unger said prior to the attack he had never experienced a hate crime.
“My family and I are in shock and disbelief, especially after the Normal Police Department have claimed that these kinds of attacks happen so often,” Unger said. “Why haven’t the police tried to make our campus safe?”
Unger said that the ISU LGBT community shouldn’t be fearful of expressing who they are on campus.
“Just make sure you’re with a friend when you are walking on campus late at night,” he said. “And that goes for everyone at ISU not just the LGBT community.”