By MIKE WIGGINS The Daily Sentinel
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
One minute, Sam and Nathan Corle say, they were sitting outside a Grand Junction fast-food restaurant, enjoying a late-night snack.
The next, they were being assaulted by a group of strangers, leaving the teenagers with black eyes, bloody noses and bruises.
The father of the brothers is decrying last weekend’s attack as random and racially motivated and says he fears it could be symptomatic of a larger problem with street gangs in the Grand Valley.
“I’ve seen this, and this is not something we can tolerate in this community,” Greg Corle said.
The Corle brothers, who are white, say they and a friend had driven to Los Jilbertos, 2812 North Ave., about 1 a.m. Sunday to grab something to eat and were sitting outside the restaurant when a red Honda pulled into the parking lot and a group of young Hispanic men got out.
Nathan Corle, 16, said the men began yelling at them, calling them “white boys” and asking them what they were looking at and if they wanted to fight. He said he laughed because he thought it was a joke.
Sam Corle, 19, said he had his head down and was taking a bite of his burrito when one of the men ran around behind him and punched him in the side of his head.
“I had no idea why they were attacking us,” Nathan Corle said. “No normal person walks up and hits someone for no reason.”
A fight ensued between the Corle brothers and their friend and what they estimated to be six to eight Hispanic men. During the fight, Nathan Corle said he heard the Hispanic males yelling “‘We’re going to teach white boys a lesson. White boys are going to die.’”
The brothers said they fought back but were outnumbered.
“Normally, my boys could take care of themselves,” Greg Corle said, noting that Sam will soon graduate from St. John’s Military School in Salina, Kan., and Nathan, a junior-to-be at Palisade High School, is on the wrestling team. “But when you have three or four guys attacking you at once, you don’t have a lot of options.”
Sam Corle said he ran into the restaurant and up to the counter to try to get away from two men who were assaulting him, but he said employees did not offer any help or call 911.
Two men who appeared to be Mesa State College students and were also sitting outside tried to intervene. The Corles, who commended the men, said one of them was assaulted but still managed to call 911.
Police arrested two men, Cesar Javier Haro, 18, and Edward Portillo, 19, on suspicion of ethnic intimidation, a felony, and third-degree assault, among other charges. Prosecutors are expected to formally file charges against them Friday.
The other Hispanic men who were involved in the attack jumped into a red and white truck and fled the restaurant, police said.
Sam and Nathan Corle each sustained black eyes. Nathan also received a bloody nose and cuts inside his mouth from his braces, and Sam had a lip stud torn out. Greg Corle said he took Sam to the doctor after he complained about neck pain.
The brothers said they have heard from friends of similar attacks on whites by Hispanics in Grand Junction. They said police indicated they have had problems with fights at Los Jilbertos.
Greg Corle said it appears to him the Hispanic men were simply driving around town, looking for some white people to attack.
“If we don’t take it seriously right now, it will turn into a blight in our community,” he said, noting he found himself in the middle of several racially motivated assaults growing up in Albuquerque, N.M.
Grand Junction police spokeswoman Linda Bowman said reports of bias-motivated crimes appear to be rare in the city. Police handled eight cases of ethnic intimidation last year. She said three cases, including the one involving the Corles, have been reported this year.
“Our agency does take these very seriously,” Bowman said, noting an assault in April, which resulted in an arrest, generated more than 20 follow-up police reports and commandeered two months’ worth of officers’ time.
Bowman said police received 89 calls for service from Los Jilbertos last year. As of Monday, officers had received 55 calls for service this year. Most of the calls related to reports of criminal mischief and disturbances.
Mike Wiggins can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.