Several men were attacked near Ohio State’s campus this past week, and Columbus Police are still searching for the suspects.
The reports of assaults were unusual in terms of number and style: groups of men targeting other men in smaller groups or alone. Authorities such as Columbus Police had little to say about the attacks and if they are related.
Between Dec. 29 and Sunday, seven assaults took place off campus resulting in a safety notice issued by the university’s Department of Safety Monday, detailing two assaults that involved at least one Ohio State student.
In comparison, only three assaults occurred during the same week last year.
According to the safety notice, at approximately 2:25 a.m. Sunday, three males, one being an Ohio State student, were walking on High Street near the Ohio Union parking garage when they were approached by a larger group of unknown males. A fight broke out, and the suspects fled in their vehicle. One person suffered minor injuries to the head, and the student sustained minor injuries.
The safety notice also included an assault at approximately 1 a.m. Jan. 1, when three males, one being an Ohio State student, were walking along East 14th Avenue and confronted by five unknown males. A physical fight occurred, leaving the Ohio State student with minor injuries, according to the safety notice.
“Although similar in nature, the crimes are not believed to be related at this time,” the notice reads.
On the same day at 3 a.m., officers were dispatched to East 13th Avenue and Pearl Street, where a 19-year-old male said he was attacked by several unknown suspects, according to the online police report. The victim was struck several times in the face with closed fists. The victim refused medical treatment.
In another incident, Mike Muffler, 2018 Ohio State alumnus, was walking back to his East 14th Avenue residence after celebrating New Year’s Eve around 3 a.m. when two unknown men began yelling homophobic slurs at him in an alley near Summit Street.
“That’s when I was like, ‘Hey, you can’t call me that,’” Muffler said. “And the next thing I know, they’re coming at me.”
Muffler was then attacked and fought back, and when Muffler got the upper hand, the other suspect became physically involved, Muffler said. Muffler’s friends came to help him, and the suspects fled.
“I don’t really know what truly their motives were, if they were drunk guys or if they really had an issue with me being gay,” Muffler said.
Initially, Muffler was unable to locate his phone after the fight and reported the assault and robbery to Columbus Police. However, Muffler said he found his phone under a nearby bush the next morning.
On Dec. 29, in the early morning, three assaults took place near campus.
A man was jumped outside Bristol Republic in the Short North at 2:30 a.m. The 21-year-old male was punched in the face several times, and his iPhone and glasses were stolen, according to the online police report.
In the second incident, a 22-year-old male was punched and kicked near East 12th and Indianola avenues at 4 a.m., according to the online police report. The victim said he believes he was set up to be assaulted.
During a third incident, a 31-year-old male was assaulted near Old North Columbus on High Street around midnight. The victim left his apartment around midnight to get food at Turkey Hill, then returned two hours later beat up and bleeding, according to the online police report.
The victim said he did not remember anything, including why he left the apartment, where he was and who beat him up. The victim did not notice anything stolen. Officers checked the area and spoke with the Turkey Hill clerk, who did not hear anything about a fight.
University spokesperson Dan Hedman referred The Lantern to the safety notice when asked about the string of assaults.
Muffler said that while he isn’t sure if he was targeted for his sexuality, he is upset by what happened to him and others.
“My main thing is that it’s not OK that stuff like this is happening,” Muffler said. “I just feel for people that can’t defend themselves in those situations.”