Justin Doerfler doesn’t know Willie Navy personally.
What Doerfler does know, and what spurred him and may others into action Tuesday at a rally at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center, was that Navy, a 53-year-old Brainerd resident, was assaulted on Feb. 6 allegedly because of the color of his skin.
The rally, Crow Wing Citizens Stand Against Racism, brought out more than 40 supporters of Navy to the judicial center Tuesday morning. It coincided with court appearances of Lucas Eastwood, 27, Backus, and Travis Campbell, 29, Pequot Lakes, the men accused of violently beating Navy.
Doerfler, an Army National Guard veteran, said he planned the rally because as a member of a mixed-race family himself the assault on Navy hit close to home.
“This was to raise awareness and for those individuals (Eastwood and Campbell) to see us in the courtroom,” said Doerfler, wearing a T-shirt adorned with a message calling for tolerance. “If everyone is in the courtroom and (Eastwood and Campbell) see us they’ll realize this isn’t a one-way town. The door swings both ways. That’s the awareness we’re trying to get out.”
The courtroom was packed for Eastwood’s and Campbell’s omnibus hearing, so much so that a Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputy — one of about six providing security in the courtroom and second-floor hallway — announced that Judge Erik Askegaard had ordered anyone not seated would not be allowed in the courtroom. With more than a dozen people standing in the back of the courtroom and only a few seats available, several people had to wait in the hallway.
Eastwood’s and Campbell’s court appearances were brief. Before the defendants were brought into the courtroom, Askegaard asked the crowd to be still and not interject comments to allow for a clear court record of the proceedings.
The defendants appeared before Askegaard separately, with Campbell first. Both men wore orange Crow Wing County Jail uniforms with their hands cuffed to a chain around their waist. Neither man spoke during their hearings.
Tuesday’s hearings for Eastwood and Campbell were continued to 9 a.m. on April 12. Assistant Crow Wing County Attorney Bruce Alderman requested Eastwood’s and Campbell’s cases be tracked together.
Eastwood faces charges of felony first-degree assault, felony kidnapping to facilitate a felony or flight, felony third-degree assault and gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault motivated by bias.
Campbell faces charges of felony first-degree assault, felony third-degree assault, gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault motivated by bias and felony probation stemming from a previous conviction.
The attack on Navy happened about 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 6 in front of Thrifty White Pharmacy, 800 Laurel St. Navy, Eastwood and Campbell, had earlier been at Yesterday’s Gone, a bar near the crime scene.
According to the criminal complaints filed against Eastwood and Campbell, an employee at Yesterday’s Gone told police Eastwood had wanted to fight Navy in the bar because Navy was black.
Navy previously told the Dispatch one of the suspects called him a racial slur before hitting him in the back of the head outside of the bar. Navy is upset that the bar employee didn’t warn him that Eastwood and Campbell wanted to attack him. Navy said he didn’t know the two men accused of assaulting him.
Navy was kicked and punched on his face and head. He suffered multiple orbital fractures around his left eye socket that could require multiple surgeries to repair.
Eastwood and Campbell are being held in the Crow Wing County Jail on $100,000 bond or bail without conditions or $50,000 bond or bail with conditions.
Doerfler said he plans to hold rallies at every court hearing for Eastwood and Campbell.
“We’ll sit in on them all until they’re sentenced and we find out what’s going on,” Doerfler said.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.