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LANSING – A brutal attack at Eastern High School last month was an act of gay bashing, police and prosecutors have confirmed. Police say accused assailant Jeremy Lee, 17, entered Lansing Eastern High School and brutally beat his victim, an as yet unnamed 16-year-old student.
When asked if the victim’s alleged sexual orientation was the motivation in the attack, lead detective James Gill said, “Yes. That is correct.”
The attack left the victim in a medically induced coma at a local hospital until recently. Gill said the victim is awake now, but unable to talk. He does recognize his mother and grandmother, however. Gill said the victim remains in critical condition.
According to Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, Lee allegedly attacked the victim because of an argument the two had at the end of the last school year at Walter French Academy, the now-defunct charter school. “I think the defendant made an innuendo that the victim might be gay,” Dunnings said.
The argument over the victim’s sexual orientation was the basis of the attack. “He (Lee) told me he went to the school to drop out. He said he heard music coming from a room. He went to the room and the victim came out of the room and brushed up against him (Lee). The accused started thinking about what had happened at Walter French and started hitting him (the victim).” Gill also said he testified to this in open court.
“From what’s known about this incident it seems clear to me it is a very good case of gay panic. We all know gay panic is a potent motive to do damage, sometimes irreparable damage, to victims,” said Triangle Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Montgomery.
Lee’s attorney, Greg Bell, said he did not believe the attack was based on the victim’s alleged sexual orientation. He said Lee has told him what the motivations were, but when asked to share, Bell said, “I am not willing to discuss them with the media at this time.”
Mark Mayes, spokesman for the Lansing Public Schools, said the district was unaware that the attack was a gay bashing. “The Lansing Schools have no first hand information about anyone’s sexual orientation, unless they choose to tell us.”
Police say Lee came to Eastern High School without permission and was therefore trespassing at the time of the assault.
Mayes said Lee had no reason to be at the school. “He was not a student at the school. There were no records pertaining to him at the school. He had no legitimate reason to be at the school.”
Lee has been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, and will be in court Oct. 13.
The attack was caught on the school’s security cameras. The assault has led District officials to implement a plan that requires students to wear their student IDs in a visible place. Mays said that because the assault occurred at the time school was getting out, it was easy at the time for someone to trespass. But the IDs will make it easier to identify those who might choose to trespass.
Mayes said, “The students at Eastern High School know they are safe.”