Hastings man attacked while walking home; says attackers identified themselves as River Falls residents
Ask a Hastings resident why they like living here, and chances are you'll hear something about the small-town feel or strong sense of community. It feels friendly. It feels safe. But one Hastings family knows all too well that Hastings isn't immune to dangers often associated with bigger cities.
Kyle Mickle, 24, was walking home from a bar when it happened. He had been at a friend's house earlier in the evening and got dropped off at the bar for a few drinks around midnight Thursday morning, May 17.
"He was only there about 20, 25 minutes, and he left," said his mother, Diane Armstrong.
Mickle was walking along 18th Street toward his home on Pine Street. A couple blocks into his walk, a dark Ford Focus pulled up next to him and a group of intoxicated, white men in their early 20s asked him for directions to Fourth Street. Mickle told his family he thought it was a strange question, since Fourth Street is well known to people who live in Hastings, so he asked them where they were from. When they said River Falls, Wis., he gave them directions and continued walking.
But it seemed the men weren't finished with him. After shouting something at him Mickle couldn't remember, the men drove around the block once and passed him, then drove around again to pass him a second time.
"(Mickle) said the car stopped abruptly in the road and they all jumped out and attacked him," Armstrong said.
He went into a fetal position on the ground to protect his face while they kicked and stomped on his head, chest and back, and then it was done.
"It was very, very fast," Armstrong said.
Mickle stumbled back to the Coliseum for help, and one of the employees there, knowing the family, called Mickle's sister and took him to the hospital. Along with several soft tissue injuries, Mickle had a broken collar bone, with the broken bone resting just under the skin, near to puncturing the skin, doctors said.
Armstrong found out about the incident from her daughter as Mickle was headed to the hospital. The whole incident has the family outraged. Mickle told them he has no idea why the men attacked him. He didn't know any of them and didn't recognize them. Armstrong said she suspects it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, because her son isn't very tall and looks young, making him an easy target.
"If you don't know him, you'd guess him to be about 15, 16 years old," she said.
Chief of Police Paul Schnell commented on the strangeness of the incident.
"This is a very rare circumstance," he said. "We don't have any other cases like it. It's highly unusual to have that type of an encounter."
Officers are still investigating and trying to sort out exactly what happened and why, Schnell said. So far, they haven't been able to identify a motive for the attack or any suspects.
Mickle could only describe his attackers as in their early 20s, all white males, clean cut, some wearing baseball caps and one with shoulder-length hair, Armstrong said. Without more details, though, she's worried that police won't be able to identify her son's attackers. Still, she's hopeful that someone will come forward with information that could help.
For Armstrong, Mickle's incident was a case of her fears becoming reality. "Big city crime" isn't limited to big cities anymore, she said. Crimes like the one her son was a victim of happen everywhere.
"People think we live in a small farming community and that's a city thing," she said. "Well, it's not."
And for her family, the dangers have become suddenly personal.
"I hope through word of mouth we can catch at least one of these monsters because it is not OK for groups to go around and gang up on single individuals," she said. "I am saddened that we can't walk safely on our streets anymore. I am hoping we find these brutes and send a message to them and our community that this is not OK behavior and we are not going to stand by and let it happen."
Mickle had surgery on his collar bone Tuesday morning. Beforehand, he was optimistic that the procedure would go well. He was counting on getting as much motion as possible back in his arm so he can keep up his drumming.
As far as other effects, Armstrong said her son is still facing some of the psychological effects that come with a traumatic event, but he's trying to put it behind him.
"In his head, he just wants to forget about it and move on in his life," she said.