At approximately 1:30 am on Saturday, May 23, a group of six men attacked two women and one man on the sidewalk in front of Cowfish Dance Club in downtown Eugene.
One of the men in the group punched Jasmyn Hinton in the eye and punched her partner Koen Derflinger in the face three times. The third person in the group — Nicole Foti — says she was hit in the stomach. Hinton, Derflinger and Foti say the six men were white, between the ages of 20 and 25, and looked like “stereotypical college guys.”
Some worry that violence like this downtown, with its increase of drinking establishments, is a growing trend, while others argue it’s just a normal seasonal increase. The Eugene Police Department says there have been no bar fights for weeks.
The three say they had left Cowfish and were talking outside when the men started making comments about Hinton’s appearance. Hinton is black, but is unsure if her race played a role in their remarks.
“So I walked up to them and was like, ‘Hey, I’m a human being. You cannot talk to me like this,’” says Hinton, who works at HIV Alliance with Foti.
The group, Hinton says, then started pushing her and Foti. Hinton and Foti told the men to leave them alone and when they wouldn’t, pushed back. Derflinger approached and asked the group to leave.
“When Koen walked up, they punched him in the eye,” Hinton says. She explains that she tried to get to Derflinger but others in the group held her back, and then the same man who hit Derflinger punched her in the face, causing her to fall to the ground and lose vision in one eye.
Derflinger, who was also held back, says he was hit in the face at least two more times, but it could have been more as he may have momentarily lost consciousness. He was bleeding profusely, he says, and his blood was “all over” the group of men.
“Then they just walked away. I mean, they didn’t run. They didn’t move fast at all,” says Derflinger, who at the time of interview had a gash in his lip and a swollen red right eye. Derflinger and Foti say the group stopped at the southwest corner of Broadway and Willamette to chat with a pedicab driver, who then came over to Hinton, Derflinger and Foti and jokingly asked if they needed a ride before walking away.
Derflinger says one bystander offered to get them gauze from Sizzle Pie, but returned with none. Many bystanders watched the attack unfold, Hinton, Derflinger and Foti say.
After the assault, Foti drove all three to the PeaceHealth Emergency Department on Hilyard. Derflinger received six stitches in his lip and Hinton received steroid eye drops for iritis, caused by the attack.
“For the next two days, I was just in excruciating pain from my eye,” Hinton says following the attack. Hinton and Derflinger say they waited a day to report the assault because they had a poor experience with staff at PeaceHealth. Derflinger says that the doctor who treated him said that they wouldn’t have been attacked if they had not been drinking.
“I just felt with the whole experience at the doctor’s office, I was in shock,” Derflinger says. “I kind of felt like it was my fault.”
Monique Danziger, senior communications specialist for PeachHealth, says while she cannot discuss the specifics of patient treatment — citing the HIPAA privacy act — that “our hearts and prayers go out to anyone who’s a victim of violence or a traumatic experience.”
After urging from Hinton’s grandmother, Hinton and Derflinger reported the assault to Eugene Police Department Officer Matthew Grose on Sunday evening, May 24.
“He met us and he was really respectful. It was so refreshing,” Hinton says of Grose. “He listened to what we had to say and he didn’t blame us. He said that we didn’t deserve this and it’s been happening a lot, and that that area is usually patrolled.”
Grose informed them they couldn’t press charges because there were no suspects, Hinton and Derflinger say. But, Hinton adds, he told them if they see the group of men again, or someone does, to “have them call us and let them know.”
Grose did not respond to a request for comment.
“I spoke with our Downtown Team and they have not noted anything unusual for this time of year,” EPD Public Information Director Melinda McLaughlin tells EW. “Seasonally, we do see an increase in population downtown, and with that an increase in aggressive behavior. However, the increase is not more than usual for this time. In fact, the bar scene has been better, with no fights for weeks.”
Hinton and Derflinger say they are avoiding downtown for now. Derflinger adds that it’s been difficult for him to leave the house since the incident. Hinton has signed up for self-defense classes.
“I’m not inconspicuous in this town,” Hinton says. “I’m basically a moving target now.” She adds, “They know what I look like; I don’t know what they look like. I’m not going to go downtown, not if I don’t feel safe, and I don’t.”
The group is seeking bystander testimony — contact the Eugene Police Department.