An individual who local LGBTQ advocates say is a gay man was beaten, tied to a vehicle, and dragged for several blocks in a terrifying scene in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 27, according to police.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said they found the victim lying in the street when police responded to a report of aggravated battery at the 4700 block of Pearce Street, which is northwest of downtown Jacksonville. Officers said the victim “appeared to be have been beaten severely as well as dragged behind a vehicle” for roughly two blocks.
The victim, whose name has not been released publicly, survived the brutal early morning attack but remains unconscious and it is still not clear whether he will survive, according to Dan Merkan, who serves as director of policy at Jasmyn, a Jacksonville-based advocacy organization for LGBTQ youth.
According to police, the victim was dragged to Pearce Street from Moncrief Road and West 36th Street, which is at the entrance to the Majestic Plaza apartment complex. Police utilized security camera footage to track down the vehicle allegedly responsible for the attack and found out it was stolen. Homicide detectives then canvassed the neighborhood and gathered enough evidence to detain the alleged assailant, 34-year-old Eric Shaun Bridges, who was initially charged with aggravated battery but later got slapped with an attempted murder rap in the case after detectives interviewed him. Police have not returned calls requesting comment, and it is not clear whether a hate crime investigation is underway.
Media outlets have published mixed information about the details of the case, with many reports stating that the victim is transgender. According to Merkan, reporters who contacted him after the attack said they heard the victim might be transgender, prompting him and his team at Jasmyn to conduct their own community-based investigation to determine the victim’s identity.
“We were able to pretty quickly figure out the name of the victim,” said Markan, who noted that he is a gay man born in 1981 and might be feminine or gender-nonconforming in his presentation.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office stated on September 29 that the victim was suffering from a “life-threatening condition” — and Merkan said he is clinging to life.
“They did suffer from head injuries,” Merkan said.
It is not clear whether the victim and Bridges knew each other prior to the incident, and police have offered no explanation of how the assault started. Merkan said he heard there was an “argument or fight at the apartment complex,” but he was not familiar with specific details about the turn of events or a motive.
Merkan said community members expressed high regard for the victim, saying he has a “bubbly personality.”
Jacksonville has seen several cases of deadly violence against transgender women dating back to last year. Police there made an arrest in connection with the death of 36-year-old Celine Walker, who was shot in a hotel room in February of 2018, but the shooting deaths of 38-year-old Antash’a English and 24-year-old Cathalina Christina James — who both died in June of last year — have yet to be solved.