Editor’s Note: Some readers may be offended by the language Kyle Wood uses in recounting the details of his alleged assault. We’ve decided to reprint the description of the violence here for reasons of accuracy. If you are offended by vulgar language or descriptions of violence, please do not read this report.
By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Kyle Wood says he finally got some sleep Thursday night,finally — the first time since early Wednesday morning.
But the sedative he took couldn’t keep the nightmares away, the 29-year-old Madison man said. It was in his sleep, Wood says, he was revisited by the face of his alleged attacker — the curly hair, the broad nose, the sunglasses — over and over again.
A cold face in the mirror.
On Friday morning, two days after Wood says he was brutally beaten by a man at Wood’s High Street home, the openly gay campaign worker for 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Chad Lee shared his story with Wisconsin Reporter.
He says the alleged attack was politically motivated and related to his sexual orientation, although Wood says he isn’t fond of terms like “hate crime.”
As he recovers from his cuts and bruises and as Madison police continue to investigate, Wood said he’s trying to understand how things in this bitterly divided state have turned so violent and why representatives who have been so outspoken about violence targeting members of the gay community have kept silence about reports of his assault.
It was just before 8 a.m. Wood, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said he answered a knock at the door. It was Wednesday, about the same time every week the Mormon missionaries he knows transfer to a new location. He thought they were coming to say goodbye.
He said he opened the door and didn’t see anyone.
“All of a sudden, somebody had me by my hair and pushed my head against the brick door frame,” Wood said. “There was a sharp feeling around my neck. He was using my hair and this thing around my neck to toss me around.”
Then, Wood said, the man — whom he describes as a big guy, with a muscular build, maybe 6-foot, 2-inches tall, with a abroad nose and sunglasses — shoved his forehead into a mirror just feet from the back door. The man pushed his face into the broken glass. (Later that morning at the hospital, Wood said it would take medical staff sometime picking out the pieces of glass from his face).
“That’s when he told me that I should have kept my fucking mouth shut, and that I had been warned,” Wood alleged. “He got me really good in the kidneys and dropped me to the floor. There was some more punching and one or two kicks.”
Wood said he can’t say whether he passed out, but he doesn’t remember his alleged attacker leaving.
He said the alleged battery lasted no more than a minute or two, but in his mind it felt like forever. Any preconceived notions he may have had about such events, like some preset plan of dashing off and grabbing a gun to drive off an attacker, disappeared. He had no time to think, he said. Only time to panic, to squirm under the weight of a much bigger man — Wood is 5-foot 5 inches, 135 pounds. Time enough to struggle to breathe, to try, and fail, to scream.
A week before the alleged attack, Wood said his car had been vandalized. Scrawled on the car, he said, were epithets: “Housetrained Republican faggot,” and “You’re like a Jew for Hitler.”
“I’m assuming that was probably my warning,” Wood said.
In recent weeks, Wood, a full-time volunteer for Republican Chad Lee’s congressional campaign, had on Facebook stepped up his arguments why he is a Lee supporter and why he is not supporting state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, an openly gay candidate running for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat who also is openly gay. Baldwin is running for U.S. Senate against Republican former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.
“That’s not a very popular thing to do in Madison when you’re a gay man,” he said of his advocacy for a GOP candidate.
Wood said responses to his Facebook posts were never threatening, just derogatory. Those commenting asked how he could be so stupid, declared that he “obviously” hates himself, effectively billing him as a traitor to the gay community, Wood said. He calls it “middle school shit.”
None of it was particularly surprising to Wood. He said since the winter 2011 protests against Gov. Scott Walker‘s and fellow Republican lawmakers’ controversial agenda and the divisive recall campaigns that followed, “everybody is getting to a breaking point.”
“It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. Everyone is fed up, and some people are just taking it too far,” he said.
Wood, who says his only previous political experience was working for the ill-fated Gen. Wesley Clark presidential campaign, says the rising rhetoric over the past several months leads him to believe his political affiliation led to the alleged assault.
He says he had never met his alleged attacker, but the face — at least part — of it stays with him.
“I only got one look at him. He was behind me the entire time. I only saw his reflection in the mirror,” Wood said. “I finally slept for first time since this happened last night. I kept waking up all night having nightmares, seeing that part of his face.”
No reply, no fear
Investigators had nothing new to report on the case as of late Friday morning, according to Howard Payne, spokesman for the Madison Police Department.
“We’re still working on doing interviews and figuring out what happened, to try to develop a suspect involved in battery,” Payne said. He added that police do not believe the public has anything to be concerned about.
Payne said he could not confirm or deny reports that the FBI is involved.
Wood said he doesn’t consider the alleged attack a hate crime because, as he put it, “a crime is a crime.”
“Whatever the motivation of the crime is, it’s not coming from a good place,” he said. “It shouldn’t matter that I’m attacked because I’m gay or my neighbor next door is attacked because she is a straight woman supporting Chad Lee. It’s a crime.”
Wood said he is offended by the silence from the two usually vocal gay icons in the 2nd Congressional District. Pocan and Baldwin, he said, have historically sprung to the defense of victims of violence in the gay community.
“I find their lack of response maybe not unexpected but lacking decorum,” he said. “I don’t look for a response from either of them, but from a political standpoint that’s what this race will come down to: do you want to elect someone who is going represent the entire 2nd District or do you want to elect someone who will pick and choose who they want to represent? That’s what their lack of a statement is telling me, that I’m no longer a person to be represented.”
Wood says he has a quote from Ayn Rand, mother of the school of Objectivism, on his desktop that sums up the silence from Pocan and Baldwin: “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
Pocan’s campaign did not return a request for an interview from Wisconsin Reporter.
The Baldwin campaign did not immediately respond Friday afternoon.
Wood said the fear of his alleged attack will be with him for a while, the panic of slammed doors. But he said he has no intention of giving into that fear.
“I’m not going to be bullied into voting for someone just because I fall into the same imagined group as he does,” he said. “I’m going to vote for a representative that votes my values.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]