Family: Assault on 15-year-old-son was hate crime

Jason Gardner. (WANE Photo)

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) – A New Haven family wants justice.

They said their son was brutally beaten and they’re calling it a hate crime. The situation has the New Haven police chief defending his department, saying there’s a lot of false information swirling around social media.

The family said they weren’t taken seriously and this beating could have been prevented. The police said they’ll prove they did take it seriously.

On June 6, three boys beat Jason Gardner near a creek and left him nearly unconscious by the time police arrived. He said he’s still feeling a lot of pain from the incident.

“They said, ‘You need to get out. Your mom, you and your family don’t belong here. Go back to Africa where you belong,’ and they just kept hitting me.”

It was those words that lead Gardner’s family to claim he was the victim of a hate crime.

They’ve contacted Larry Gist, the president of the local NAACP chapter. Since Indiana doesn’t have hate crime laws, he’s contacted the U.S. Department of Justice. Gist said teenagers fight every day, but this was clearly different. “At this level, when they beat this boy left him for dead, what else would you call it?”

The Gardners said this all started months ago over a girl. Jason’s mother, La’Keysha, said she contacted the police multiple times.

“I don’t feel like my family is good enough to be served and protected anymore and I can’t tell you why that is. Why couldn’t this have been avoided? If my children are out here doing bad things, I’m almost absolutely sure that they’ll get in trouble for it, so why have we shown proof – not hearsay but proof – of what’s been going on threats against his life and nothing happened?”

New Haven Police Chief Henry McKinnon disputed all of Gardner’s claims and even said he would be willing to release police tapes after the investigation is over to show his department isn’t in the wrong. He was concerned about the department’s reputation when he said he knows his team well. When we told him people were calling them racist he said, “Absolutely not. One-hundred percent not.”

There was also talk about a rope and Gardner having rope burns around his neck. He said he felt like the boys were going to hang him. McKinnon said the rope has been at the creek for years and people use it to pull themselves up out of the creek.

McKinnon said the investigation is open and they’re close to one arrest and confident in the other two.

But for the Gardners it’s too little too late. “I think that the police isn’t doing their job,” Jason said.

Gardner said she doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt.

“I want to spread the word that everybody has rights and we are all equal no matter what skin color we are we all deserve to be protected by the people who are paid to do it. There was such an outpouring of love and support from so many people. I am encouraging everybody, anybody who sees this story, to use peace as your weapon. Use peace and love as your weapon.”

McKinnon said he doesn’t want the public to think they are looking into this because of the social media attention. He said they have been working on arrests since the assault.

“We’re already prepared to to request charges from the prosecutor’s office, that hasn’t changed, we’re just gathering more information of that and we’re now looking at the other two.”

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