Skip to comments.Gay tourist healing after Caribbean island attack
Posted on 05/09/2006 2:08:27 PM PDT by FerdieMurphy
(ATTACKED: Ryan Smith, 25, is recovering in Miami Beach, after undergoing brain surgery from a brutal attack.)
(VICTIMS: Ryan Smith, center, and his boyfriend, Justin Swensen, left, were attacked in St. Maarten in April. Patricia Smith, right, learned her son was gay after the attack.)
A young CBS News employee is recovering in Miami Beach from a near-fatal gay bashing during a vacation last month in St. Maarten. Two were arrested on Saturday.
Ryan Smith's communications skills earned him an internship in the Clinton White House. He talked his way into jobs with David Letterman and CBS News.
But today, Smith, 25, has trouble saying and writing simple words.
While he and friends vacationed April 6 on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, a small group chased them down, yelled gay slurs and smashed Smith's skull with a tire iron.
Two people were arrested Saturday and are scheduled to appear in court today, Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein told The Miami Herald.
The attack has drastically changed Smith's life.
He and his boyfriend are living in Miami Beach while he undergoes weeks of treatment for his brain injuries. His parents -- who didn't know he was gay until they learned of the attack -- have come from Ohio to help.
Smith's thought process and memory seem fine. The greatest reminder of the near-fatal beating -- not including the surgical scar that circles the left side of his head -- is his trouble speaking and writing.
For someone who earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, worked as a page for Late Show with David Letterman and had been working as a production secretary for CBS' 48 Hours in New York, that has been enormously difficult.
''He was never at a loss for words. That hasn't changed. He still has a lot to say,'' his mother, Patricia Smith, said. ``But he was always able to finish his sentences.''
FLOWN TO MIAMI
After the attack, Smith and Dick Jefferson, 51, a senior producer at CBS News, were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Jefferson suffered a fractured skull and had to have a titanium plate inserted in his head, but he was able to return to New York a few days later.
Smith's injuries were more extensive. His skull was fractured and surgeons needed to remove bone fragments lodged in his brain. There still is a soft spot on the left side of his head where doctors removed part of his skull. He needs at least one more surgery to replace the hole with a plate.
Doctors expect Smith to make a full recovery, though they don't know how long it will take.
''I am by nature very impatient,'' Smith said. ``I realize there has to be time. It's the brain. A lot of great things have happened so far. But you can't expect the impossible weeks after a major surgery. It's going to take a while to get back to the way I was.''
Smith has trouble remembering the attack, which occured about 3 a.m. near Sunset Beach Bar in Beacon Hill, Dutch St. Maarten. His boyfriend, Justin Swensen, can't forget.
'We were just holding each other in the bar. We were not kissing, not making out. Some guys just started screaming. Yelling. Overreacting. I heard one of them say `buttboys.' The bouncer asked if we would move and we did because we didn't want any trouble,'' said Swensen, 23, a New York fashion model.
As Smith and Swensen left Bamboo Bernie's bar, one of the men tossed a chair at them. Neither was hit. The bar manager ordered the angry men to leave.
Outside, Smith and Swensen met up with Jefferson and a few other friends. Suddenly, a white car with three or four people inside tried to run them down, according to witnesses.
The car clipped Smith, knocking him down.
''I saw the car stop and somebody get out,'' Swensen said.
From inside the car, a man began throwing paint cans at Smith, Swensen and the others. Swensen ran to get help.
''I was panicked,'' he said. 'Then a guy says to me, `You've got to get out of here or something is going to happen to you, too.' All of a sudden, I see Ryan staggering back. . . . I can see he's covered in blood. Blood is pouring out of the wound in his head. . . . I see Dick with a shocked look on his face. He's holding his head.''
For the first few days after the attack, St. Maarten police did little to investigate, according to the victims. But after CBS and ABC News ran TV reports, the case moved ahead.
A man and a woman, both French St. Martin residents, were arrested Saturday, and more arrests are expected, said Stein, Dutch St. Maarten's chief prosecutor. The suspects' names were not released.
''The crimes suspected are grievous bodily harm and attempted manslaughter,'' Stein said.
The attack has caused some activists to question whether gay and lesbian travelers should visit the Caribbean.
'It is time for Americans to reassess their relationship with islands such as Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. Either they welcome all of us, or none of us. But these `paradises' can no longer be playgrounds for heterosexuals and hunting grounds for homosexuals,'' national gay activist and Fort Lauderdale native Wayne Besen recently wrote on his website blog.
The last four weeks have been trying for Patricia Smith and her husband, Raymond, who live in Sandusky, Ohio, and didn't know their son was gay until he was nearly beaten to death.
''I had an idea but he never shared it with us. I felt he was waiting to talk to us about it,'' she said. ``We love him dearly. Nothing can change that. . . . We've had a quick learning curve. But we accept him as he is.''
Ryan Smith regrets not telling his folks sooner.
''You think your parents are going to hate you,'' he said. ``But of all the things that are going on in my life right now, the last of the things is the gay thing.''
Friends in New York and strangers in South Florida have reached out to Smith, his parents and Swensen. About 150 friends attended a benefit Saturday night in New York City and raised about $2,000 to help with living expenses while Smith recuperates in South Florida (He has medical and disability insurance through CBS News.).
When members of South Florida's gay community heard that Smith was staying in Miami, they moved to help.
Finance writer and gay philanthropist Andrew Tobias loaned a vacant Lincoln Road apartment to Swensen, who got a job waiting tables at Cafeteria on Lincoln Road.
Ray Breslin and partner Patrick Pecoraro donated two units at the Mantell Plaza in Miami Beach for the Smith family to use the first week, then discounted the units for the rest of their stay.
With the support of family and friends, Ryan Smith is pushing himself to recover.
''I know these guys almost killed me. But you know what? They are not going to affect who I am,'' Smith said.
''I have to talk. I am a journalist. I'm all about talking about the truth,'' he said. ``I don't want anyone to go through what happened to all of us. There were times I was in the hospital that I didn't know how to talk. I couldn't read. I couldn't watch TV. I didn't know what people were talking about.''
The first release on this incident stated that the two were kissing and fondling one another.
American homosexuals need to understand that their perverted public behavior does anger some heterosexuals.
What a shame.
smashed his skull with a tire iron. your defending this?
Sounds like a crappy deal.
I don't support the violence against these 2 guys and I hope those who did it will get their just punishment. But these two should have known better.
Anger? Sure. Yet no heterosexual has the right to hurt a homosexual. Or anyone else for that matter. Every heterosexual is obligated to remain within the law and refrain from harming another human being. Just like every homosexual is.
Well, it's not as if you were doing any harm to them, is it? After all, you're only cutting off their potential progeny through your line. That's really not so bad, is it?
That poor woman! To have this sort of disappointment in the news and learn about it in this manner.
my interpretation of the last sentence in the initial post leads me to conclude the poster is defending this cruelty
Homosexuality is not welcome in the rasta culture fer sure. these idjmos need to read up on the culture before publicly getting down. They are lucky to be alive. All I noticed was the first sentence "A young CBS News employee". why do I get the feeling working at CBS is a closed process. I suspect a right minded white hetero male would have about as much a chance of catching on at CBS as they would at the melon farm collective.
He claims that was not the case.
I have a neck. It turns my head. If I witness something that's uncomfortable to watch, but otherwise harmless to me personally, I use my neck to turn my head. I do NOT use a tire iron to turn someone else's head into pulp. It's part of what separates me from lower life forms.
Beating the crap out of anyone is not something to be admired. The two should have waited until they returned to their accommodations.
I don't see anyone defending the attack but the poster is pointing out that certain actions can result in very negative reactions. Being unaware of it can be dangerous.
Or as Buju Banton phrased it back in the early 90's.
"Boom Bye Bye"
Or as Buju Banton phrased it back in the early 90's.
"Boom Boom Bye Bye"
I hope I'm wrong. Go Taco.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.