Man taunted, hit by youths while on bus
By Janice Kayser
Posted: Feb. 8, 2007
A Wauwatosa man who was attacked on a county bus in what police say might have been a racially motivated incident said in an interview Feb. 6 that he has no harsh feelings toward the youths who were involved.
"They were ignorant kids and it's a shame there is that ignorance in this city, but I don't hold any hard feelings against anyone," said the victim, a 20-year-old white man.
Police are seeking a battery charge with a hate-crime enhancer against a 16-year-old black youth accused of assaulting the man after he boarded the bus at Mayfair Mall last week. During the attack, the youth called the man "cracker" and other racial slurs, police said.
"I was just in complete shock that something like this can happen, it was just complete unnecessary violence," the man said.
He said he believes the attack was racially motivated because of the derogatory names used against him during the attack.
The man said that while he will think twice about boarding a bus in the future, "I don't want something like this to stop me from living my life."
Only white on bus
The incident happened Jan. 30, when the 20-year-old Wauwatosa man boarded a county bus outside Mayfair Mall about 7 p.m. As the bus traveled east on North Avenue, several teenage boys who were behind the man started pulling on his hair.
According to police:
At first, the man told police he ignored the taunting but after a few more times he turned around and told the group to "relax."
When the man turned back around, one of the teens kicked him in the back of the head. When the bus stopped in the 6700 block of W. North Avenue, the man got up to get off. As he rose, one of the teens punched him in the face and the back of the head. The man made his way to the front of the bus and the teens exited the bus from the rear, but they appeared to be waiting for the man to exit, the bus driver told police. At that point, the driver instructed the man to stay on the bus while she called police.
One of the boys got back on the bus and attacked the man, striking him with his fists. During the attack, the boy kept calling the victim derogatory names, according to the driver and the victim.
The boy then got off the bus and fled on foot with his friends. The youth was later apprehended near the 6000 block of West Garfield Avenue.
Police reviewed the security surveillance video from the bus and saw that the victim was the only white person on the bus. When asked by police and interviewed by Milwaukee County Transit System security officials, none of the estimated 50 passengers said they witnessed the attack.
The responding officer said in his report that it appears the victim was targeted solely because of his race. The videotape showed the victim enter the bus and do nothing to provoke the assault.
"From this information, the possibility exists there could have been a racial motivation to this battery, but this is now for the district attorney's office to review and decide," Wauwatosa Police Lt. Dominic Leone said.
The boy was referred to Children's Court on a charge of battery with a hate-crime enhancer. The victim did not want to be taken to the hospital.
'Sad and disturbing'
The victim's mother said her family is having a difficult time understanding why someone would attack her son, whom she describes as "gentle and non-threatening."
"He was just on his way home from a movie and they attacked him," she said. "They broke his glasses, and his eyes were so swollen he couldn't put his contacts in. I just can't believe this happened."
The mother said her son called her after police arrived on site, and he was extremely distraught.
She does not want any of her children to take the bus anymore, she said.
"I am just thankful he wasn't more seriously hurt," she said. "What if these guys had pulled out a knife or a gun?
"Apparently racial hatred goes both ways," she said. "I didn't even know what a 'cracker' was until this happened. Someone had to explain it to me. It's all just very sad and disturbing."