‘He had to just ruin it for us’: Victim of alleged Copeland Park attack speaks out
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – One of the victims of last week’s alleged attack at Copeland Park is speaking out.
Seventeen-year-old Jax Gross says he and his girlfriend were just hanging out in the park last week when the suspect started yelling at them.
What happened next is something Gross will remember forever.
“We just ignored him and then he ended up coming over, and talking to us, and fighting with us.”
In a place where everyone should be welcomed, Gross says he doesn’t know why Travis Crawford did what he did.
“And then he was calling us ‘faggots’ and all that stuff, and telling us to get out,” Gross said.
Gross says Crawford accused him of having sex with his girlfriend.
“We were just tickling each other,” Gross said.
He says he eventually stood up for his girlfriend after Crawford refused to leave.
When he did, Crawford punched and kicked him in the face.
“Me and my girlfriend only have so much time to spend together,” Gross said. “And he had to just ruin it for us.”
“I always was worried someday having a transgender child that I would get a phone call saying something like this would happen or something worse,” said Julia Barton, Gross’s mom.
Crawford is charged with two felonies, but he is not being charged for a hate crime.
Under state statute, hate crimes are based on sexuality, not gender.
Barton wants that to change.
“I feel this man came at my son knowing he was a boy thinking they were in a gay relationship, and that’s why it should be labeled under a hate crime,” she said.
Barton also believes Crawford should be charged with child abuse.
“I am a lucky parent to sit here today and talk to you about him being alive instead of being dead because getting kicked in the head with a steel-toed boot is really dangerous,” she said.
A district attorney representative tells News 8 Now the child abuse statute is meant to pertain to a child’s caretaker.
Still, Julia says Crawford should be in jail at least until trial.
“Until then, I believe he is a threat to society at this point,” she said.
Gross can’t change what happened, or how it’s made him feel.
But he feels some comfort knowing the community is paying attention, and is behind him.
“Cause then I can help other people who go through the same issues,” he said.
That will help make everyone feel welcome.
We ran into the suspect in Copeland Park after we spoke with the family.
Crawford did not want to talk on-camera, instead accusing us of slander, saying we “need to get our facts right.”
He even threatened to sue the station.
Crawford will return to court on Aug. 5.
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