For Willie Navy, the future holds nothing but unknowns.
Navy, a 53-year-old Brainerd resident, was brutally assaulted in the early hours of Feb. 6 after he left a downtown Brainerd bar. The assault of kicks and punches to his head resulted in multiple orbital fractures around his left eye socket that could require multiple surgeries to repair.
On Sunday, more than a week after the assault, Navy said he’s still suffering from headaches and a loss of energy. His left eye is stitched closed and he’s not sure he’ll get his vision back. He also said the vision in his right eye is getting weak.
“I’m not doing so good today,” Navy said Sunday night at his residence. “The pain won’t go away.”
Navy, who moved to Brainerd from Minneapolis about two years ago to be closer to family, said he was a regular at Yesterday’s Gone and went alone to the bar on the night of Feb. 5 because he had missed the bar’s grand opening on South Ninth Street a few days earlier. He stayed until closing time and left out the front door. He said once he was outside, someone approached him, called him a racial slur and asked him what he was doing there.
“I asked him, ‘What did you say?’ and they hit me from behind, in the back of my head. That was it. I guess they had free shots at me,” Navy said. According to court records, the assault on Navy was stopped after two women approached and yelled at the suspects.
Navy doesn’t remember anything after the first hit to the back of his head. He said the next thing he remembered was waking up at Essentia Health’s St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
“If it wasn’t for those two ladies they probably would have killed me,” Navy said.
Two men — Lucas Eastwood, 27, Backus, and Travis Campbell, 29, Pequot Lakes — have been charged for assaulting Navy.
Eastwood was charged 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 was charged 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.
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. What upsets Navy is that the bar employee never warned him about Eastwood’s threats. If they had, Navy said he would have left earlier, gone out the back door or called a cab.
“I’m still upset they didn’t tell me,” Navy said. “If I know somebody is trying to hurt you and I don’t help you I’m just as guilty as you. I might as well have did it myself. What does that make me then? I’m just as guilty.”
Navy doesn’t know the two men accused in his assault and said he doesn’t go out looking for confrontations.
“I have a lot of friends in downtown Brainerd. Ask them and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: ‘Willie’s a good guy, he don’t bother nobody, he don’t mess with anybody when he gets down there,’” Navy said.
Navy doesn’t want race to be an issue. What he wants is justice against those who harmed him.
“It ain’t everybody in Brainerd, just the ones that did this to me,” Navy said. “I’m still going to make Brainerd my home. I’m not going to let this deter me.
“There’s some bad white people and there’s some bad black people. I can’t look at every white person and say, ‘They’re the ones that did it to me.’ I don’t live like that, man. I want the ones who did this to me to be prosecuted, no one else. ... This is not a race thing. It’s about justice.”
On Tuesday — the day Eastwood and Campbell are scheduled to make a court appearance — supporters of Navy will be making their own statements.
From 9 a.m. to noon, a rally called Crow Wing Citizens Stand Against Racism is planned at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center to support Navy. Navy had no role in planning the rally, and while he appreciate the support, he said he doesn’t plan to attend. Also, Jimmy’s Pizza, which Navy frequents, will donate a portion of sales from Tuesday to help defray Navy’s medical costs.
Navy said he is considering hiring an attorney but wants to first learn what Eastwood’s and Campbell’s blood-alcohol content was the morning of the attack.
Navy has a doctor’s appointment on Monday and he hopes they’ll be able to remove the stitches in his eye. He knows he will have surgery to correct the injuries, he just doesn’t know how many surgeries. He said he’s been scared, not just at recalling the attack, but about his future health.
“I look at myself down the line, where I’ll be at, what my situation will be, and right now there are a lot of unknowns,” Navy said. “I’m a black guy, I’ve got an education and I came to Brainerd to make a better life for myself. I know I’m not running from nobody but I didn’t come here for no problems. This doesn’t make sense. It’s 2011 and you get treated like this?”
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.