Barie Shortell, a 29-year-old resident of Williamsburg, was brutally attacked by a gang of teenagers yelling anti-gay slurs last month, shortly after getting off the L Train. Unlike another recent victim, Anthony Callao, Shortell survived his attack, but with injuries that required more than 9 hours hours of facial reconstructive surgery. Shortell did not have health insurance; his friends have set up a site for donations and are hosting a “Gay Bash” benefit party Wednesday night at Blackout Bar in Greenpoint.
Shortell talks to the Voice about his attack and why he still loves Brooklyn.
Tell us about what happened.
I was walking home from the Bedford L Train Stop. I was a block and half away form my apartment, and passed a group of teenagers, and they shouted a gay slur.
Are you gay?
Yes. I was immediately attacked by them. I remember what they said, but it all happened so quickly. We were crossing paths, and they shouted an anti-gay slur once as they passed me, and then they immediately attacked me. I remember what they said, then I don’t remember what happened to me after that.
Did you lose consciousness?
I must have lost some consciousness. I was found by a wonderful woman name Jessica Quarles. She passed the group of teens, and heard them yelling the slurs, and then saw me and knew something was wrong. I remember speaking to the police and going to the hospital, but due to shock, I don’t remember the attack specifics. But the injuries were much like being in a car accident. It was not like they stuck around, they just shoved my face into a wall. I’m aware of other incidents like this that have happened.
Are you aware of Anthony Callao, who is being memorialized Thursday night in Jackson Heights?
Yes. And before that, I’m aware of some other incidents which involved people from the Hasidic community in Williamsburg. For me, being an openly gay man and being aware of anti-gay slurs, it seemed like a biased crime. It’s being investigated as such, but it’s important for people to know that this can happen to anyone of any identity.
Has there been any progress in the case?
Not that I’m aware of. I’m not able to identify anyone. There’s been no luck with finding video surveillance in the area to my knowledge. It’s being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force.
What has this done for you sense of safety?
It’s made me very focused on raising more advocacy for anti-violence. People need to be careful of their surroundings, and to be aware. I don’t think there’s anything I could have done differently. But, my response is that I just want to advocate more against violence and hate crimes happening, so we can call feel safer.
What type of work do you do?
I work for a company that makes custom lighting fixtures for architects and designers.
Do you have health insurance?
I do not have health insurance, and I have been on leave from my employment [since the incident].
Do you know how much you’re on the hook for with medical bills?
I have no idea. I haven’t received a bill yet.
How does the support you’ve been receiving from your friends, who are raising money for you, make you feel?
It’s amazing. Something like this is a horrible experience, but it’s only been positive in the sense of the support I’ve have in the community since then. Especially the support I’ve gotten from the Anti-Violence Project, and working with them to raise awareness.
Did the attack affect your outlook on life or on New York City?
Not in any negative way, not at all. I love New York City. I love Brooklyn. And I want to point out it’s not just about people being aware of their surroundings — that just puts a band-aid on the problem. It’s about getting more people and more diverse groups in on the larger conversation of creating awareness of this type of violence that occurs, and get to the root of how to address that problem.