A Ferndale man’s jaw was broken in a downtown Bellingham beating early Sunday, May 8, after two men called him a supporter of Donald Trump, he says.
Justin O’Flaherty, 22, of Ferndale, wasn’t among the thousands of people at a weekend rally in Lynden for the Republican presidential frontrunner.
So he’s perplexed by the comment he says preceded a punch in the face: “I bet you’re one of those (gay slur) (expletive) Trump supporters.”
Trump’s last-minute campaign stop made big, polarizing news Saturday in Washington state. The assault in Bellingham, however, happened hours later and miles away.
O’Flaherty said he had a beer or two and a shot or two of alcohol with a buddy at the Royal, a bar at 208 E. Holly St. He went outside to get tacos from a food truck around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
Just down the street O’Flaherty got separated from his friend for a moment, he said. He recalls getting into a brief argument with two young men: a black man with long curly black hair, and a bald skinny white man with over-the-ear headphones and tattoos on his neck.
One of the men, O’Flaherty said, stole his hat — a Seattle Mariners hat, not the ballcap that says “Make America Great Again,” which Trump wore at Saturday’s rally. Then as he tried to get the hat back, the man threw it at him and punched him hard in the face. His recollection of the assault is blurry. He recalls being hit once or twice. But he distinctly remembers the comment about supporting Trump.
The men seemed off, he said, like they were high on cocaine or meth. They fled through an alley by the Horseshoe Café.
O’Flaherty could speak, though it hurt. He told an officer at the scene they had argued about the Seahawks, according to a police report. (O’Flaherty doesn’t remember saying that.)
Police recovered pixilated security footage of the alleged assault. It shows an argument, some shoving, and a white man throwing a hard punch at O’Flaherty, said Lt. Mike Johnston. That video hasn’t been released.
At the hospital O’Flaherty said his blood-alcohol content was measured around 0.08. An X-ray shows his jawbone split from a corner of his chin to his bottom front teeth.
“They hadn’t seen one that bad in a while,” he said.
He went to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. On Monday, he spoke with a reporter while en route to major oral surgery.
Police have identified one possible suspect, but Johnston declined to release his name. He hadn’t been arrested as of Monday afternoon.