Hall left the hospital with a brain bruise and fractures above and below one of his eye sockets. His sinus cavity, Hamilton said, was “completely destroyed.” He is currently struggling with migraines and severe sinus drainage issues. His memory is poor.
“The prognosis from the neurologist is basically a 75 to 80 percent chance that he’s going to get all of his memory back, which is a good thing,” Hamilton said. “It could come back in spurts. It could come and go.”
“I’ll use what the neurologist said,” Hamilton continued. “‘The brain is a fickle thing. If it has to endure a lot of trauma, the brain will sometimes purposely forget it, to kind of help itself heal.’”
Hall will undergo a procedure to restore his sinus cavity once the swelling goes down. The broken bones will eventually heal. To monitor the brain bleed, now classified as a brain bruise, he will need weekly CAT scans.
After witnessing what he thought might be the end of his partner’s life, Hamilton will need time to heal, too.
“The fact that Mike was on the ground, face-first, bleeding, and the fact that [the attacker] was standing over Mike saying, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ and Mike couldn’t respond — there was nothing Mike could do,” Hamilton said.
Full of anger, the man was looking to hurt someone, Hamilton surmised. Hamilton called the assailant “evil” and “red in the eyes.”
“Another person asked me, she’s like, ‘If you were to make an assessment, would you believe that he would have killed Mike?’” Hamilton recalled. “And I said, ‘He would have, and he wanted to.’ And that was the scariest thing I think I have ever had to witness.”
Hamilton doesn’t think drugs or alcohol were at play in the incident. As an educator and substitute teacher, he has experience recognizing such things. Hamilton said he does feel the assailant could be familiar with the community and may have lived nearby. If not, Hamilton thinks he and his accomplice likely would have fled toward the highway. Instead, Hamilton said, the pair headed toward a residential area after the attack.
Hamilton wonders if the assailant had seen Hall at the Kroger where he worked — and where he was well-liked.
“Mike is a loving and caring person in regards to customer service,” Hamilton said. “He’s always positive, always loving. He would come home every single day from Kroger and tell me a story of a kind, elderly person that he had to help at the self-checkout or, you know, a lady that said that he made their day, made them laugh.”
Being apart for only a few days was tough on Hamilton.
“Honestly, when he was in the hospital, there wasn’t a day that I could sleep,” Hamilton said, becoming tearful. “I felt alone. I felt like a piece of me was missing. I mean, being that Mike and I are so empathically connected, I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do. That’s how close Mike and I are.”
According to Hamilton, Hall’s openness about his sexuality has helped him learn to accept his own identity. Still, Hall worries whether Hamilton’s openness may have caught the attention of the attacker.
“I’m public with my bisexuality, but Mike is even more public with his being gay, and people know,” Hamilton said. “And that’s my fear. This [perpetrator] has had to go into Kroger. This person has had to see Mike before because Mike is just that outgoing of a person, and he is public with his sexuality.”
Hamilton said Hall taught him that being open and honest about who you are is more important than anything else in life. And until that night, the two had been living authentically and safely, Hamilton said. The two men hadn’t experienced harassment in their hometown until the attack.
Hamilton, 34 years old, is a lifelong Harrison Township resident and acknowledges that though the area is “pretty conservative,” people usually keep to themselves.
Still, a week before the attack, Hamilton said a shopper had verbally assaulted one of the many LGBTQ+ employees at the Kroger where Hall worked.
“That guy took so much more away than Mike’s health,” Hamilton said of the assailant. “He took away our way of life, he took away our trust in the community, he took away everything. This entire situation…has convinced us that we should just move. We don’t even feel safe here.”
Hamilton said the LGBTQ+ community needs to remain vigilant, even during Pride Month.
“It all needs to stop,” Hamilton said. “People think June is a safe month for LGBTQ, and there’s this illusion that everything is okay, and it’s not. The violence aside, the fact that people still just use those slurs and hurt people, it’s absolutely disgusting.”
Hamilton notes that June, Pride Month, should be a time for celebration across the LGBTQ+ community, but that it should also include an emphasis on awareness.
“I see people’s Pride Flags,” he continued. “I see people being proud. [But] I want us to stand together more. I want to see us be more of — I hate to say it — an army that stands behind what we believe in [and] is against the violence.”
“Because what we’re doing now is just not enough.”