When Justin Doerfler read about Sunday’s brutal assault in downtown Brainerd — an assault law officers believe was racially motivated — he said Thursday he felt he should have been there to help the 53-year-old black victim, Willie Navy.
“I’ve got (racially) mixed family myself,” said Doerfler, an Army National Guard veteran who served 10 1/2 months in Afghanistan and returned home last June.
Doerfler, 31-year-old Brainerd resident, had been out that night with his girlfriend, her brother and her sister. He said they had even driven past the Eighth and Laurel streets where Navy suffered severe head and facial injuries, including multiple orbital fractures around his eye socket that endangered his vision. Doerfler said the incident made him afraid to invite his black cousin to Brainerd.
His disillusionment led to action. Doerfler urged people on his Facebook page to join Crow Wing Citizens Stand Against Racism by meeting from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center to support the victim and “his right to co-exist” and send a message to the accused and any like-minded people that “you might want think twice because everybody’s watching.”
The rally is timed to coincide with Tuesday’s scheduled court appearances of Lucas Eastwood, 27, of Backus, and Travis Campbell, 29, of Pequot Lakes, the men accused of the beating.
Doerfler emphasized that the rally would be peaceful. The group will meet outside the judicial center and, if allowed by authorities, attend the court appearances.
A 1998 graduate of Lake Region Christian School, Doerfler said he served with all races in Afghanistan.
“What’s the damn difference just because of skin color?” he asked.
He said extremists were everywhere and in his view that played a role in the early Sunday morning beating.
“Two people, racially motivated, an act of extremism because of color,” he said.
Eastwood was charged Tuesday in Crow Wing County District Court with 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, 29, Pequot Lakes, was charged Tuesday with felony first-degree assault, felony third-degree assault and gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault motivated by bias.
Both men 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. Their next court appearances are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaints filed against Eastwood and Campbell Navy suffered severe head and facial injuries, including multiple orbital fractures around his eye socket that could result in vision loss. Navy’s eye was protruded after the assault and the facial injuries are expected to require multiple surgeries to repair. He was discharged from Essentia Health's St. Joseph's Medical Center Wednesday afternoon.
Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston said an investigator was able to speak with Navy at his Brainerd home Thursday, but no new information was learned that would result in additional criminal charges being filed against Eastwood and Campbell.
McQuiston said police are still asking anyone who might have witnessed the assault or has any additional information to contact the department at 829-2805.
The attack on Navy happened about 1:20 a.m. Sunday in front of Thrifty White Pharmacy, 800 Laurel St. Navy and the two men suspected in his assault, Eastwood and Campbell, had earlier been at Yesterday’s Gone, a bar near the crime scene.
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