Hate crime survivor David Ritcheson spent the last years of his life fighting hate crimes. The Houston-based activist lived to tell about a gruesome attack by some neo-Nazis. Joe.My.God elaborates on the 2006 crime:
[Then 16-year old]Ritcheson was beaten and sodomized with a patio umbrella by two men shouting “White power!” Ritcheson barely survived the attack and underwent over 20 surgeries over the last two years. One of the men who attacked him received life in prison, the other got 90 years.
The experience spurred Ritcheson to testify during The House’s hate crime debates…
The reality that hate is alive, strong, and thriving in the cities, towns, and cul-de-sacs of Suburbia, America was a surprise to me. America is the country I love and call home. However, the hate crime committed against me illustrates that we are still, in some aspects, a house divided. I know now that there are young people in this country who are suffering and confused, thirsting for guidance and in need of a moral compass. These are some of the many reasons I am here before you today asking that our government take the lead in deterring individuals like those who attacked me from committing unthinkable and violent crimes against others because of where they are from, the color of their skin, the God they worship, the person they love, or the way they look, talk or act. . . .
Unfortunately, Ritcheson could no longer act happy – the 18-year old jumped from a Carnival cruise to his death over the weekend.
An 18-year-old was observed by “a bunch of people” jumping over the railing of the upper deck of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Ecstasy around 7:35 a.m. Sunday, said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers. The ship’s crew pulled the body from the water and he was pronounced dead at 9:10 a.m. The ship had departed Galveston on Saturday and was a “couple of hundred” miles out, Eggers said.
A written statement from the cruise line also said the 18-year-old appeared to jump from the ship.
Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese joined Ritcheson’s family in mourning:
Today we mourn the loss of David Ritcheson, whose young life was tragically altered by one of the most vicious hate crimes in recent memory.
By sharing his testimony before Congress, David’s courage helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass a hate crimes bill that will help fight these horrific acts of violence. Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones. We will work to pass a hate crimes bill in the Senate that will help honor David’s life.
Some activists are also floating the idea of naming The House’s bill after Ritcheson. The Senate Bill’s named after Matthew Shepard.
Others wonder whether Ritcheson ever completely recovered from the 2006 attack:
In an April interview, Ritcheson said he was still struggling with being identified as the victim of the pipe attack. A skinhead named David Tuck, 19, was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the attack. Keith Turner, 18, received a 90-year sentence.
“I shouldn’t care what people think,” David Ritcheson said earlier this year. “But it’s like everyone knows I’m ‘the kid.’ I don’t want to be a standout because of what happened.”