Update: The Department of Public Safety has determined that the alleged assault reported to campus last night did not occur. That report, filed with campus police on April 5, was false. The University will not report it as a hate crime. Click here for our update on the story.
Quinn Matney was having trouble sleeping.
As the freshman took a walk on South Campus at about 3 a.m. on April 4, he said he ran into an acquaintance on the Craige Residence Hall footbridge. As the two spoke, a man sitting at a nearby picnic table stood up and grabbed him by the wrist, he said.
“Here’s a taste of hell you f—-ing fag,” Matney remembered the man saying.
The man branded Matney, who is gay, on the left wrist with an unidentified object, causing third- and fourth-degree burns that damaged three nerves and a tendon, leaving the freshman with no feeling in his thumb and limited mobility in his index finger, he said.
Matney said he tried to pull away — but the man didn’t let go until he received a hard punch to the face.
Matney said he then walked away quickly, trying to distance himself from the man and his two friends, who both appeared drunk.
“I’ve seen him two or three times before this, always out on that same bridge,” Matney said of the man, whose identity is unknown.
Jeff DeLuca, co-chairman of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance, said he is alarmed by the administration’s silence on the attack.
University officials did not officially comment until a post on Alert Carolina on Monday evening, a week after the incident.
“A very blatant hate crime against a GLBT individual occurred on this campus, and we only heard about it by word of mouth,” DeLuca said.
The man is being sought on charges of aggravated assault, said Jeff McCracken, chief and director of the Department of Public Safety.
“We don’t have any suspect information that we could comment on at this point in time,” he said.
UNC plans to report the incident as a hate crime to the federal government, Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a formal notice email Monday.
Matney said he thinks the man who attacked may have overheard conversations with friends in the past that might have revealed his sexual orientation.
After going to the emergency room and leaving after hours of waiting the night of April 4, Matney said he received treatment at Campus Health Services the next day. Only then did he file a police report.
The man appeared to be a white 19-year-old, standing 5 feet 10 inches, with a large build and short brown hair, he said.
Matney is also trying to find the acquaintance he saw at the footbridge to corroborate his report. The witness, he said, was a male student he recognized but does not know by name.
DeLuca said GLBTSA is holding a public forum to discuss the incident during its regular Thursday meeting, and has invited school administrators to attend.
“The community has a right to feel kind of shocked and scared by what happened, but we’re here to try to allay those fears and let people know about the resources available and also to address the issue of how the student body was notified,” he said.
“At GLBTSA our main concern, though, is making sure that we rally up around Quinn and do everything we can to support him in this time where he needs our community’s support the most.”
Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs, said current notification methods warn students when there is an immediate danger.
Crisp, who will attend the group’s Thursday meeting, said these policies are being reviewed, especially following last week’s armed robbery.
“We have learned from feedback from the campus on recent events there may be a need for another level of information that we push out to the campus,” he said.
Matney said doctors told him he will need to visit the burn unit and go through two weeks of occupational therapy for his injury, and that he might need surgery.
“Despite the horridity of the event, it has let me see how much my community loves me,” he said.
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