Gay Okla. college student beaten in apartment complex

by Michelle Parsons

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 5, 2010

As Oklahoma lawmakers debate whether the state should comply with federal hate crimes statutes, a college student maintains local authorities have done little to investigate those who attacked him because he is gay.

Phillip Nelson, who lives in Claremore, a small town about half an hour north of Tulsa, said three men screamed "faggot" and "You're going to die!" as they beat him while he took the trash out in his apartment complex late last month. Nelson's assailants left him with cuts and bruises on his face and body. And he said they broke into his apartment a few days later, ransacked it and scrawled "fag" across the wall.

"Right now I feel drained," Nelson told EDGE, sighing.. "I keep praying and I keep praying but things just get worse. I feel like my prayers are not being heard."

And what's even more emotionally draining for the 24-year-old is the way he said the Claremore Police Department has responded to the attack.

"I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back," Nelson said. "No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they're kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it."

Nelson's friend Dylan Perry says he would not be surprised if the police department swept incidences like these under the rug. The pharmacy technician now lives in Tulsa, but he grew up in a small town near Claremore.

"A town like that is awful," Perry said. "If something were to happen, I would not expect anything serious to take place within the police department."

Claremore police could not be reached for comment as of deadline, but Capt. Charles Downum told the Tulsa World he said someone reported a break-in, and not an assault. Nelson said he called the police after both incidences, and filed separate police reports.

"I did not know this until the recent incident, he [the responding officer of the beating] never even filed a report about that," Nelson said. "The only way I found that out was because of the break-in. And because of the break-in they did get a report; all of a sudden they wanted me to file two reports because they neglected the first one."

Oklahoma's hate crimes statutes do not include sexual orientation. The state Senate passed a bill that prohibits local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal officials if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize it has a hate crime. State Sen. Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) introduced the measure after President Obama added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to federal hate crimes statutes last October. The Republican legislator maintains the federal law infringes on freedom of speech.

In spite of the ongoing debate, Nelson continues to attend class as he tries to move forward from the homophobia he said has surrounded him his entire life.

"I've been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it," he said. "I just got numb from a lot of things. I'm happy with myself and that's all that matters."