Lawrence “Mikey” Partida, a fun-loving, long-distance runner from Davis, California had his life as he knew it shattered on March 10 when he was brutally beaten by Clayton Daniel Garzon, 19, outside a party, in what is alleged to be a hate crime.
“One bad seed can change your life,” Partida, 32, and on a long road to recovery, told NBC Latino. “He changed my life.”
On the night of the attack, Partida and Garzon became involved in an altercation outside the house party where the victim was beaten badly. Davis police Lt. Glenn Glasgow said Partida’s sexual orientation is believed to have triggered the assault “at least partially,” with anti-gay slurs allegedly being used by the suspect “both prior to and after the attack.”
The victim’s mother, Gloria Partida, describes her son as a well-liked, reserved person and says the attack was akin to ripping the wings off a butterfly. She lists his severe injuries in calm and measured tones.
“He had a skull fracture, a laceration on the side of his head, bleeding and cuts on his face,” she says. “He had to have surgery to remove a two-inch piece of wood from behind his eye and had to have smaller pieces of wood removed because his face was impaled against a fence.” She said he had fractured ribs and his ear had to be drained because of excessive swelling as well.
She believes her son was attacked because he is gay.
“The person was hollering all sorts of anti-gay slurs prior to the attack and during the attack,” she says. “Afterwards he knocked on the door of a house and said he had, ‘beat that [gay slur] down.’”
Garzon’s lawyer admits that he was involved in the fight, saying he sustained injuries as well, but strongly disputes the allegations that it was a hate crime.
“There are claims that my client used some words that are derogatory towards homosexuals,” says Linda Parisi, a Sacramento criminal attorney. “I can’t say whether or not those words were used — let’s assume they were — young people use these words as a slang term more than hate.”
Parisi said the animated show South Park as well as sociological studies have talked about the “new f-word,” a gay slur that is now less about stating an opinion on homosexuality and more of a slang term. “This is a young man whose uncle is gay, the first wedding he attended was a lesbian wedding in Canada,” she said. “His family embraces tolerance, he was not raised to, nor does he express hatred.”
But the victim’s mother says those things are less important than the events of that night. ”Actions speak louder than words,” she says.
Gloria Partida says her son’s road to recovery will be slow, with doctors estimating that it will take six to nine months for his head injuries to heal. “His broken ribs are preventing him from getting around easily,” she adds. “He can’t drive because his reaction time is so slow and sometimes he gets confused and it’s difficult for him to write sentences.”
The victim’s sister, Vivian Partida, who is also gay, launched a Facebook page along with her girlfriend called “Mikey’s Justice Fund,” which has galvanized the Davis and online communities. In the days after the attack, his mother would read well-wishes from the page to him when he was in the hospital with both of his eyes shut. “He couldn’t read anything, it made him feel a lot better,” she says.
The page has more than 2,250 fans in under three weeks since the attack and features messages of love and support for Partida. He says he has been touched by the intensity of the support.
“I didn’t realize it was going to blow up,” he says. “People are upset in Davis, it’s such a small town. I never imagined they would be that supportive.”
His mother says she wants Garzon — whose bail was $75,000 and then $520,000, but has been released awaiting an April 26 hearing — to face justice.
“I’d like for him to be prosecuted,” she says. “I want him to face the consequences that he deserves to face. It would be great if he could reflect on what he’s done, change his ideas and show remorse because he doesn’t seem to be remorseful in the courtroom.”
Partida says he has progressed but has lingering issues like bouts of anxiety, being more scared and more cautious.
“The hardest part is I can’t sleep,” he says. “I keep seeing his face. I relive the first couple of punches, it’s horrific.”
But looking towards the future, Partida doesn’t want to let the attack define the rest of his life.
“I don’t want to be full of hate and aggression,” he says. “I want to be positive. I want to be a good person.”