Two men are being held at Winnebago County Jail on charges that they brutally beat a gay man outside PJ’s, 1601 Oregon St., in Oshkosh early Christmas morning.
According to a criminal complaint cited in reports by local media, Lyall Ziebell, 20, and Jake Immel-Rhode, 20, met the victim outside the bar when he asked them for a cigarette in exchange for buying them a shot.
After having the drink, the three returned outside to smoke and Ziebell punched the victim in the face, according to the complaint. Immel-Rhode began kicking his head while shouting anti-gay slurs.
Ziebell told police he is “very homophobic” and attacked the victim for making a pass at him, according to the complaint. He also said he and Immel-Rhode stole cash and pre-paid cell phones from a market on their way to Ziebell’s home.
The victim told responding officers that he was attacked “because I’m gay.”
The victim suffered a broken jaw and a brain injury that required emergency surgery. He was reportedly in intensive care for two weeks.
James Combs, a friend of the victim, has started a petition at change.org to bring attention to the crime and to call on Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney Adam Levine and state Rep. Jessica King to ensure that “every effort to bring justice to this situation is being made,” including pursuing hate crime charges.
“We really need to draw attention to this kind of thing,” Combs told WiG. “People have not really grown accustomed to gay people, and there is still violence and horrible things happening.”
To sign the petition, click here.
Combs said friends might start a fund to help the victim pay for medical costs.
According to reports, Ziebell is due back in court Jan. 12 for an arraignment. Immel-Rhode has pleaded not guilty.
If convicted on all charges, the suspects face more than 23 years in prison.
WiG will update this story as more information becomes available.