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Battle Creek man says he was ‘scared for his life’ after experiencing hate crime

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Derrick Kilbourn and his mom’s celebration turned sour on Sunday when he became the victim of homophobic slurs and a subsequent attack, he said.

“I’ve lived in Battle Creek all my life and I know a lot of things happen here,” he said during an interview at his home. “But this was like a moment where I felt like I was scared for my life.”

Kilbourn said on Sunday he had just taken his mom out to dinner and stopped by Sam’s Discount Store afterwards to pick up drinks. However when he walked inside the store he noticed someone was staring at him.

“I felt uncomfortable with the situation and like how he was looking at me,” he said. “But then I kind of just like continued to do what I had to do in the store.”

Kilbourn said when he stepped out of the store that same man, who he described to be a 6’2” light-skinned male, was in a vehicle with two other people parked behind his car. He said they got out of the vehicle and started calling him derogatory names.

“They were going to beat me up, drag me through the mud,” he remembered them saying to him. “It was definitely crazy to me.”

KIilbourn did not know them, he said. He asked them to leave so that he could drive away. But before he could, he said the light-skinned man kicked his car and punched his back window with his fist.

“I was very scared,” Kilbourn said. “My mom was in the car with me. And that was another thing, I wasn’t willing to risk my mom’s wellbeing for something as simple-minded.”

Kilbourn immediately dialed 9-1-1. The officer arrived within less than a minute, he said. However he recalled the officer only staying in the police car, asking a few questions and telling him to take the busted window “as a loss.”

“It just made me feel real uncomfortable,” Kilbourn said.  “I just felt not reassured that something was going to get done to fix the problem.”

Frustrated, Killbourn vented his feelings on social media. It’s since been viewed 30,000 times and people have reached out from all everywhere — Nashville, San Francisco and Toronto — sharing similar stories and showing support. BCPD said they looked at it too.

“It appears that Derrick was upset with how quickly he felt like it was just over,” said BCPD Deputy Chief Jim Grafton. “What I’m asking is for an understanding that we need to investigate. We need to develop the crime.”

Deputy Chief Grafton said that the department could’ve been better at communicating the process to Kilbourn. Police are investigating the situation, he said, and are looking for the other men involved. They've been given two photographs that were taken of them in the store and they're hoping to find them and bring charges soon.

“This is a hate crime,” said Deputy Chief Grafton. “We’ve identified it as such. And I can’t imagine how emotional Derrick has been. This could affect him the rest of his life.”

Kilbourn said he too has been in contact with police. He’s grateful that he spoke up  about the situation considering things could’ve been much worse. He suggested others do the same.

“If you can’t get help, do what I did, go on social media and bring it to people’s attention,” he said. “Things like this are hidden and people continue to go on day-to-day hiding what's happened to them.”

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