Victim in antigay attack in East Tawas speaks out

By | 2018-01-16T16:27:24-05:00 September 20th, 2007|News|

Capitol Correspondent

DETROIT- Angela Potter was having a good day Sept. 8. She was in East Tawas for an annual softball tournament. A trip she has made for at least five years.
“I play the sidelines with a beer,” she said with a chuckle.”I have a lot of friends that play on the team. I go up and root for the team. It’s fun.”
Potter and her friends swung by a local store and got some beer and food and returned to their hotel room at the Tawas Bay Beach Resort. They stayed in their room that night, talking, laughing and drinking. According to Potter at about 8 p.m. they decided to go to the hotel bar.
Potter described a group of four men who came in and sat down across from her and her friends. The two groups freely mingled, and Potter’s friends purchased drinks for the men when last call was made.
Potter said she and her friends decided to head down to the beach to play in the lake after last call. They were there for about 15 minutes when the four men appeared at the top of the beach and began shouting antigay slurs at the women. The men threatened to attack them.
“My friend got nervous about it because she is conservative. She wanted to go to the lobby to complain,” Potter said. In order to get to the hotel lobby, the women had two choices – walk back up the beach and through the bar, passing the men – or walk all the way around the building and enter the lobby from the front.
They chose the first route. As they were passing the men, Potter said they again hurled antigay slurs at them.
Potter said she faced them off. “I was like ‘What is your issue? We bought you drinks and you were pretty cool.'”
Potter said one of the men then attacked her.
“I swear he looked like I killed his mother. He jumped up and got in my face,” said Potter.
“‘You wish you were as hot as my wife,'” Potter said the assailant told her and then he “grabbed me by my throat. It felt like an hour, but it was less than 5 minutes. I had his hand print around my throat. It just went away recently.”
When the two fell to the ground the bartender and Potter’s friend helped pull the man off of her. Potter said she asked for the police to be called. The assistant manager, who Potter identified as Richard Webber, was also called. She said Webber took her and her friend into the main restaurant and asked if the assailant was there. Potter said he wasn’t. Webber disappeared again, Potter said, assuring the women the police had been called.
Potter and her friends waited for the police to respond for 45 minutes. Finally, one of her friends went back up to the hotel room and got her cell phone and called the police. When officers arrived, Potter said they told them the cell phone call was the first one they had received.
Potter filed a police report and a picture was taken of the bruises on her neck which were the result of the choking. She said officers were able to locate the suspect in a nearby bar, but no arrest was made. The next morning, Potter discovered one of the four men involved in the assault was staying in the hotel in a room across the hall from her. She said the man apologized for the assailant’s behavior, but Potter felt unsafe. She brought the situation to the attention of a woman who said she was the owner, a woman she identified as Tracie Newenhouse. According to Potter, Newenhouse was dismissive of her concerns.
“She told me if I felt unsafe I should leave,” Potter said. “But she refused to credit my money back to me and we could not afford another place while still paying for this one. So we stayed.”
East Tawas Police Chief Dennis Frank confirmed no arrest was made that night. “It is not a general practice to arrest a person in such a case, unless there is an immediate threat to the safety of the victim or of a chance the assaultive behavior would continue.”
Frank said the case is still under investigation, but declined to identify the suspect. Asked if the situation was a hate crime he told BTL, “There are some issues here that lend themselves to this being a hate crime.”
Repeated calls to the Tawas Bay Beach Resort and owners Doug and Tracie Newenhouse went unreturned.
Triangle Foundation is working with Potter and has planned a demonstration in front of The Tawas Bay Beach Resort for Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

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