“I wish I would have just stayed home.”
Josh Shuck, who just celebrated his 23rd birthday last weekend, is now in a neck brace for six weeks and faces the possibility of surgery to repair two crushed vertebrae after making the decision to go the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival the night of July 9.
Though Josh is a bit blurry on the details, those around him and those who came to his aid say his beating was an out-and-out gay bashing.
“I got off work and tried to decide whether I wanted to go down to the jazz festival or just stay in,” Josh said. “I just live a few blocks away so I decided to go down. I ran into some friends and we hung out. We were really having a good time.”
One of the friends Josh met up with was a woman he once worked with. Mary, who asked that her real name not be used in this story, agreed that the night was a lot of fun.
“I hadn’t seen Josh in a few months, so it was nice to see him again. We and a bunch of other friends were just enjoying the festival, enjoying the company, having fun, dancing. It was just a peaceful experience for me. We were having a load of fun, really enjoying our time together,” Mary explained.
“Then, closer to the end of the night, two guys approached us,” Mary continued. “A girl friend and I were sitting on the curb and Josh was sitting on the street in front of us. Two guys came up and one sat to my left and started leaning over me at my friend. He began making rude comments about her body … inappropriate remarks.”
“The two guys were pretty drunk,” said Josh. “They were telling my friends to make out and stuff. One wasn’t lesbian and it was making us all feel uncomfortable. They wouldn’t leave us alone.”
“Everything seemed to go south really fast,” said Mary. “I was trying to tune it out. I turned away from him hoping he would take the hint and just leave us alone. He just kept on saying very graphic things.”
Josh then called one of the friends at the festival, Dallin James, hoping he’d bring some friends with him.
“Josh called me and said, ‘get over here, these drunk guys are harassing the girls and we need to get them out of here,’” said Dallin. “He actually called a couple times telling us to save them. We walked over and saw the guys basically harassing them. We didn’t say even two words to them, we just walked over and said, ‘ok guys, gotta go, our ride is leaving.’”
“Immediately, the guy with the shaved head looked at me and said, ‘you guys are a bunch of cocksuckers, aren’t you?’ I was taken aback. ‘Are you serious?’ I thought,” Dallin explained. “They were obviously wasted drunk. ‘You guys are fucking fags! You better get out of here, you’re faggots.’ He just kept on and on calling us names.”
That’s when the group started walking away.
“I turned back around and saw he was getting up to come after us,” Dallin said. “He kept yelling ‘fags,’ ‘cocksuckers.’ We just kept walking.”
“We walked away and I walked ahead of Josh a bit. I heard a male voice yelling ‘You fucking faggot, you fucking faggot!’” said Mary. “I turned and saw the guy grab Josh by the collar of his shirt and he hit him in the face. I turned again to find my friends and turned back and saw the guy had him in a headlock and he threw his head right to the ground.”
“It was so awkward to me. If someone’s not fighting back, why do you keep pummeling him?” Mary wondered. “Josh was already down and the guy picked him up and threw him down again.”
“You wouldn’t believe the impact to the ground,” said Dallin. “It was pretty intense how he hit him to the ground.”
“I started to yell, ‘This guy is a gay-basher! This guys is a gay-basher! At the top of my lungs” said Mary. “Instantly complete strangers swooped in and tackled him.”
“People tuned in to what was going on” said Dallin. “Random bystanders stepped in and protected Josh and I. They got the shit beat out of them. I think they got what was coming to them.”
“I ran straight towards Josh and grabbed his bag and ran over to our other friend. She grabbed Josh — he was shaking and crying, ‘My head hurts, my neck hurts.’ We laid him flat.”
Festival security, paramedics and the police were called. Paramedics took Josh and the alleged perpetrators, M a r c H an d l e y and Greg Ratliff, to the hospital. Police questioned H an d l e y, who said, according to police reports, he could not remember anything. He was cited with misdemeanor simple assault. Ratliff was not charged.
H an d l e y said he worked as a loan officer at Security National Mortgage. The person answering a phone call by QSaltLake said that H an d l e y did not work there. After investigating, we found that both Handley and Ratliff work at NAI Utah Commercial Real Estate. QSaltLake also believes that H an d l e y offered up a false residence. H an d l e y is not listed on the condominium directory at the door and an office staffer could find no Handley in her files.
Police are not yet handling the incident as a hate crime. While H an d l e y has been cited, police spokespeople say the case is still being investigated.
“If it turns out to be an assault, it will be investigated as an assault, if it turns out to be a hate crime, it will be treated like a hate crime,” Det. Joe Cyr, Salt Lake City Police Public Information Officer, told QSaltLake.
As for Shuck, he continues to wear his neck brace and hopes for the best. “I can’t look down or otherwise get hurt,” Shuck said, “or I will be permanently paralyzed. This is the first broken bone I’ve had in my life.”
“I cannot remember anything said or done that would have instigated any kind of fight,” said Mary. “Josh is … he means no harm. He is a tender, young man. Very sweet. He would never try to pick a fight. It’s beyond me that it all happened.”
H an d l e y did not return calls to QSaltLake for a statement.