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UA student describes Sunday stabbing

By Eric Swedlund
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 10, 2000
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The gay UA student who was stabbed while sitting outside a Fourth Avenue cafe Sunday said he pledges not to succumb to the fear the attack has brought him.

The student, whose name is being withheld for safety reasons, told the Arizona Daily Wildcat yesterday that he definitely considers the attack to be a hate crime.

"Hate and discrimination is something that we all live with - and me and a lot of gay and lesbian people realize that the life of a person is not the life that hides and shrinks from hate and discrimination, but the life that endures and maintains itself," he said.

"Hate is everywhere, and when these things happen we have to realize that it is not just in somebody else's state. It's not just on the news - it happens in our communities, in our families, in our friendships and in our classrooms."

The 20-year-old University of Arizona philosophy junior said he is a regular at the Rainbow Planet Coffee House, 606 N. Fourth Ave., and was doing his homework there Sunday night.

"I'm a regular - all the regulars know who I am, and they're very good friends," he said.

He said that after finishing his homework, he went to sit with a friend and two other people at a table on the sidewalk in front of Rainbow Planet at about 9:30.

"I was out there for maybe two minutes when I saw a man across the street. He had knocked over a newspaper stand," the student said. "I could tell he was angry."

The student said a car blocked his companions from the view of the man, but he turned to them and said, "I think there's going to be a little bit of trouble."

"Then time just went kind of weird," he said. "Before I knew it, he was behind me and it felt like he had punched me."

"My first thought was, 'What the heck is he punching me for?'"

The student said he got out of his chair and walked away to avoid further incident when he felt blood running down his back. A friend shouted that the man had a knife.

"I ran around to the side patio, told my friend I had just been stabbed, ran into the cafe, fell to my knees and said, 'call 911,'" he said.

The ambulance arrived within three minutes, and the only danger he was in was from loss of blood. The knife didn't pierce any organs because his rib had stopped the knife.

"It was a fairly big knife, four to six inches long, but it was also thick," he said. "It wasn't like a slice, it actually was a big nice gaping wound."

Witnesses reported seeing the attacker plunge the knife into a planter that was on the sidewalk.

Police reports state that Gary Grayson, 37, was apprehended at Fourth Avenue and East Seventh Street and arrested for the attack.

Grayson was charged with aggravated assault and booked at Pima County Jail.

The student was taken to University Medical Center, were he was treated and released early Monday morning with no permanent injuries.

"Everything is going fine. There's a lot of pain, but that is only going to get better with time," he said. "Physically everything is going well."

He said his sutures come out in one week, at which point he will be fully recovered.

"It's kind of boring," he said. "The thing I want most is to start homework again, go to class and move on."

Witnesses reported hearing Grayson saying things like he had "killed a fucking faggot."

The student said all he could remember his attacker saying was "this is what gays deserve," and "let this be a warning to the gay community."

He described his attacker as a young black man who was wearing baggy jeans and a big black jacket.

"I am not a victim who wants my attacker to get 10 times what was done to me," the student said. "I want the punishment to fit the crime."

"I don't want to focus on the legal aspects of a hate crime, I want to use that awareness to educate the community just so they know that it is there," he said.

"I was so happy when I came to this campus because it seemed like it was such a wonderful place to be," he said. "For the longest time I had no trouble and last fall, I encountered some verbal abuse from this young man who was with a group of friends. I actually thought I was going to get beat that night."

The student said the incident - which he didn't report - was on campus and that man looked as though he was drunk and was shouting things like, "God hates faggots."

Although verbal attacks can be common, he said this physical attack is far different.

"The only kind of psychological scar is going to be fear. The first time the verbal assault happened, that was the first time I had ever faced discrimination," he said. "That made me very afraid. I can only think that this is going to make me even more afraid."

He said the support from friends has been overwhelming. He's received calls from the Pride Alliance, UA's gay student association, and even the Jewish community center.

"It's gay awareness week this week, and it is kind of ironic that this would happen because gay awareness was exactly what was supposed to stop this sort of thing from happening."

He said he is planning to release a statement at a vigil/march that is being organized for Sunday night at Rainbow Planet, regardless of whether he will be there.

"One thing that I am going to take from this and it's one thing I want everybody to realize, is yes, I am afraid but then I'm not going to succumb to it and I'm not going to let it rule my life," he said. "I'm going to the coffee shop again. I am not going to hide in my room.

"I refuse to let any sort of fear and hate and discrimination keep me from my life."

The student said he befriended the openly gay U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., about three years ago when he was coming out.

Kolbe is co-authoring hate crime legislation that would increase penalties for anyone convicted of a hate crime. This bill is set to be voted on this legislative term, but Kolbe has said he is not optimistic about it being passed.

"There's one sense in which this was random and that is the sense that it could have been any homosexual, or whom he though to be a homosexual. There's no doubt that his target was homosexuals," the student said.

"The world is a good place, there's just a lot of hate in it," he said. "We just all need to stay together and learn together. And that's what I'll leave you with."

Eric Swedlund can be reached at Eric.Swedlund@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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