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Male student almost killed in 'random' attack near campus

MELISSA HALTERMAN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Jake Watts, a geography junior, was assaulted Jan. 24 while walking to his car on East Linden Street near East Tyndall Avenue. Watts suffered severe injuries from an attack and now has a metal plate in his head.
By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
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A UA student was nearly killed last week after three men assaulted him near campus, fracturing his skull.

Jake Watts, a geography junior, was attacked by three men at North Euclid Avenue and East Linden Street after he left his friend's house on Jan. 25 around 1 a.m. to walk to his truck a block away. Watts said he had been in that neighborhood several times since coming to the UA his freshman year.

"I thought it was a safe neighborhood; I never worried about being assaulted," Watts said.

While Watts walked down Euclid, between East Grant Road and East Speedway Boulevard, a car pulled up beside him and three men jumped out. Watts said one of the men immediately started hitting him.

"I ran, but I tripped on a curb, and they were right behind me," Watts said.

Watts wasn't sure of the details that followed because he said he might have passed out.

"I don't remember them taking my wallet or cell phone," he said.

But Watts eventually woke up and drove home.

"I was so scared, I just raced to my truck," he said.

When Watts got home, his head was bleeding profusely and he realized he had to call an ambulance.

Watts' mother, Paula Johnson, said there was blood everywhere when she went to clean up his apartment a few days later.

"It looked like someone had been murdered," she said.

Watts' skull was fractured in the assault, and he had blood clots in his brain. His family said if he had suffered a blow just a fraction of an inch in any direction on his skull, he would have died.

Watts had to have brain surgery, and although he was released from UMC Sunday, he is still recovering.

Watts and his family don't know the motive behind his assault.

"It appears to be totally random," Johnson said.

The original police report classified the assault as a misdemeanor, but Sgt. Marco Borboa, TPD spokesman, said a new report that would not be available until today was filed yesterday morning.

Watts said TPD knows the extent of his injuries and has classified his attack as aggravated assault.

Watts doesn't hold much hope that the police will find his attackers because he couldn't give police a good description. But he wants to warn other students in case his attackers go after someone else.

"When you're out having a good time, you have to stick with your friends. It's dangerous to be alone late at night," he said.

Watts said he never thought he'd be the victim of such violence.

"I thought only females were at risk," Watts said, "We (mens) really do need to realize that we need to watch our safety too."

Joshua Watts, Jake's older brother and a UA graduate, had a message for UA students.

"You don't have to be in any category to be a victim. Even if you're a young guy and don't think of yourself as a stereotype for crime, it can still happen," he said.

Mark Rillos, a regional development freshman, said he always walks with at least two friends when he goes out at night. Gil Lang, a pre-business freshman, said he used to feel safe walking alone at night, but now he's going to try to make sure someone is always with him.

Watts, who turned 21 the night before the attack, said he's scared the assault may change his day-to-day life.

"My classes were going well, and I was really happy," Watts said. "They've taken that away from me for the time being."

Watts won't be able to return to school this semester, but he hopes to be back for summer session.

Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman, said the extent of Watts' injuries is unusual as far as the assault cases go that UAPD handles around campus.

Mejia saidUAPD does offer an escort service for students who have to travel late at night and feel threatened.

"Male students don't often take advantage of it as much as females do," he said.

Mejia said students should not hesitate to call the escort service if they feel threatened and need a ride home.

If people have more information about the assault, they are urged to call TPD at 791-4444.

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