Religious leaders joined local organizations in rallying support for two men who said they were attacked outside a convenience store this weekend in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
Authorities are reviewing surveillance video of the reported attack, which occurred shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday at the Kwik Shop at 4820 E. 21st St. That’s just northeast of the Wichita State University campus.
One of the victims was Khondonkor Usama, 23, the vice president of WSU’s Student Government Association and a Muslim. His passenger, the second victim, is a 19-year-old friend and fellow WSU student who has chosen to remain anonymous. He is Hispanic.
They were getting gas and snacks at about 3 a.m. Saturday when they noticed a man shouting at someone who had apparently asked him for gas money.
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When the suspect began using racial slurs against the man who asked him for money, Lt. Randy Reynolds said Monday, one of the students attempted to intervene.
The attacker then turned his wrath on the two students, stopping his motorcycle in front of Usama’s car and approaching Usama’s friend, who had gotten out of the car.
The suspect called his friend “brown trash” and told him he had to “leave this country,” Usama said at a news conference held Monday on the sidewalk next to the Kwik Shop where the reported assault occurred.
According to Usama’s account, his friend responded: “This is my country. Who the hell are you to tell me to leave?”
The incident “escalated really quick,” with the suspect attempting to punch his friend, Usama said. When he attempted to break up the fight, Usama said he was assaulted and knocked down.
He called 911, and as he was on the phone the attacker rode circles around the two students, chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and screaming, “We’ll make America great again! We’ll throw you out of the wall!”
The suspect then left on his motorcycle. Usama’s friend was treated at the scene for a bruise on his lip.
Reynolds said the suspect is a white male about 30 years old who is about 6-feet-1 and 200 pounds. He was wearing a black beanie and black jacket.
Wichita police have collected surveillance video from the store and are reviewing it, officials said. Djuan Wash, a spokesman for Sunflower Community Action, said he has urged police to make the surveillance video public if possible.
Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the attack “clearly an unprovoked incident of hate” that continues a “disturbing trend that we have seen recently.”
Elbayoumy called on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “to deplore this attack and any similar instance,” making clear “he is against it and does not condone it in any way, shape or form.”
Violence has erupted around Trump events, especially in the past weeks.
At a Trump speech Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., police used pepper spray to try to control the crowd of Trump protesters outside the venue where he was giving a speech. A man in North Carolina has been charged with assault for allegedly punching a protester as he was being escorted out of a Trump rally.
During the March 5 caucuses in Wichita, racial epithets were reported, but no arrests were made and no violence reported.
Usama said he was initially reluctant to go public with the attack, but eventually decided he needed to let people know what happened. He said he has been grateful for the support from “the amazing community.”
“In this great nation, we talk about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion,” he said. “But if we allow this kind of hatred towards each other then we can’t make America great again.”
Local religious leaders spoke Monday in support of the victims.
“We all know that words have consequence and actions have consequence and they lead somewhere,” said Rabbi Michael Davis of Congregation Emmanu-El. “Hateful words have consequence. They lead to hateful action.
“Hateful action leads down a road. The road of racism and bigotry and hatred leads ultimately to lynching and holocausts and bombings and destruction and death.
“But at the same time, we can be roadblocks. We can stand in the way and stand up for peace and understanding and compassion and unity and that is our obligation and why we are all here today: to act as roadblocks against hate.”
Keith Little, pastor at College Hill United Methodist Church, said he wanted to speak up Monday because “silence only goes to continue to promote the injustices that we hear.”
“Hatred and bigotry and attacks have no place in Wichita” or around the country or even the world, he said.
WSU president John Bardo released a statement Monday saying the attack “appears to have been a racially motivated incident.”
“Wichita State University stands with the majority of Kansans in condemning all acts of anger and violence motivated by racism and intolerance,” Bardo’s statement said.
Bardo said that any university student, faculty or staff member who has experienced any act of violence can contact the WSU Counseling and Testing Center for assistance at 316-978-3440.