November 23, 2014

Elyria
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White men beat black teen

Police say racial slur led to fight; one arrested

ELYRIA — A 17-year-old black teenager was beaten up after being called a racial slur by two white men Friday evening, police say.

Machovina

The incident, which forced Travis Noble to undergo surgery to repair his damaged jaw, is being watched by a national civil rights organization after it received several calls about it.

Police said they found Travis beaten, bloodied and sitting slumped in a lawn chair at a home on the 400 block of Metcalf Road about 11:45 p.m. Friday when they responded to the area after receiving a call about a disturbance.

Travis, who was barely conscious, could hardly tell police what happened to him, but it was later learned he was assaulted while visiting three friends.

Travis was taken to EMH Regional Medical Center, where he underwent surgery to repair jaw fractures on both sides of his face. He also sustained multiple cuts and bruises to his face and head. He was released Monday evening after doctors wired his mouth shut, the police report said.

Daniel Noble, Travis’ father, said his son is in constant pain and eats all of his meals through a hospital-issued syringe. Daniel said doctors have said Travis will be out of school for one to three weeks. He likely will not return to the football field to play middle linebacker for Elyria High School this season and basketball looks questionable, too.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to nobody’s kid,” Daniel Noble said. “And what makes it worse is it all started with my son being called a (racial slur). We all know there are things out in the world like racism, but you never think it will attack you in your home until it happens. I hate that it happened to my son.”

On Wednesday morning, police charged James F. Machovina, 21, of North Pasadena Avenue, Elyria, with felonious assault in connection with the beating. Machovina appeared in Elyria Municipal Court later in the day, where he entered a plea of not guilty to the second-degree felony charge and was released on a $15,000 bond.

Police Lt. Andy Eichenlaub said a warrant charging felonious assault also was issued for an 18-year-old man, who police say started the incident by yelling out the racial slur. He had not been arrested as of Wednesday, Eichenlaub said.

While the use of the racial epithet may have instigated the fight, Eichenlaub said police could not charge it as a hate crime because it does not fit the legal definition. To pursue hate crime charges, there has to be proof that the motive of the fight was based solely on Travis’ race.

“It is true a derogatory name was called prior to the fight, but the victim, after hearing it, chased after the suspects. That’s when the fight started. Because of that, it’s hard to determine what the motive was,” Eichenlaub said.

Still, the incident has been brought to the attention of the National Action Network, the national civil rights organization headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton. The National Action Network has been making headlines for its involvement with a situation in Jena, La., involving six black teens — dubbed the Jena 6 — who are accused of beating a white teen.

Richard Jones, president of the Cleveland chapter of the National Action Network, said he has fielded several calls about the incident and has sent word to the national chapter.

He has not heard back from Sharpton or anyone from the organization’s New York headquarters, but said he would intervene if instructed to do so. Travis’ family has not contacted the organization.

Daniel Noble said the incident happened after the Elyria High football team lost Friday night. Travis and a friend wanted to shake off the loss, so they headed over to Travis’ girlfriend house on Metcalf Road. Witnesses told police that a white man riding a bicycle on the street with two friends yelled out a derogatory term as they passed Travis.

Several witnesses said they heard someone yell, “Hey, looks like we have a (racial slur) in our neighborhood,” the report said. Upon hearing the word, Travis took off running after the men on the bicycles. Words were exchanged and as Travis turned to walk away, he was hit in the back of the head, the report said.

He was punched repeatedly, put into a chokehold and, as he bent over after being released, was kicked in the face, police said. The kick knocked Travis out cold, the report said.

Travis’ friends tried to break up the fight and also were hit by the suspects, police said. No other charges were filed.

Daniel Noble said his son has never had to face racism before, and now the pain he feels extends beyond his physical injuries. The family wants justice and will be watching closely in the next few months as the case against the suspects moves through the court system.

“When you’re minding your own business and someone calls you a (racial slur) before beating you, how is that not considered a hate crime? When is this going to stop?” Daniel Noble asked. “People have to get together and solve this problem."

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.