An openly gay high school student in Pueblo was assaulted by six of his fellow students last week because of his sexual orientation, his family said Tuesday.
The attack happened last Thursday while the 15-year-old boy was walking home from Centennial High School, his mother, Theresa Ornelas, said.
Anthony Hergesheimer was alone when a vehicle with six teenagers inside passed him four times along Denver Boulevard.
The vehicle finally stopped and someone threw objects at him and shouted derogatory insults at him, Ornelas said.
"One of the boys got out and he hit me on my eye, right on my face with a full can of Lysol," Hergesheimer said. "My nose just started gushing everywhere."
Hergesheimer said he ran to a nearby house for help.
He suffered a black eye, severe damage to his face and a broken nose. He must undergo surgery on his nose and forehead Wednesday, Ornelas said.
Hergesheimer said he was attacked because he is openly gay.
"I'm very upset. Yeah, my son is gay. But that shouldn't matter. He should be proud of who he is," Ornelas said.
"It's frustrating. We can get mad, (but) at the end, they will get what they deserve," said Hergesheimer's stepfather Michael Ornelas.
Hergesheimer said taunting began at school earlier in the day.
"They said things to me like, 'You, fag, this and you, fag, that,' and then they walked off," he said.
Ornelas said her son had also received a threatening e-mail prior to the attack.
"We are looking into it. It's an assault that we are calling a hate crime," said deputy chief John Ereul of the Pueblo Police Department.
Three of the six suspects have been interviewed and all three admitted to the crime, police said. Police said because of the seriousness of the case, felony charges could be filed.
The school district was alerted to the incident and conducted its own investigation. The Pueblo City Schools then suspended the six students in question.
"Students are considered in the jurisdiction or care of the district en route to or form school until they cross their front door," said district spokesman Greg Sinn. "Given the level of violence involved and apparently being a bias-motivated crime, Pueblo City Schools is taking this matter very seriously. The findings of our investigation may be result in a recommendation of expulsion for all six suspects."
The school district has 25 days to make a recommendation to the superintendent and conduct hearings in cases of expulsion. It is likely that the six suspects will be placed on extended suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
Hergesheimer said he will return to school next week, and he said he feels confident that the majority of his classmates will accept him.
"You shouldn't be afraid to be who you are. Of course there will be people who won't agree with you," he said. "But you shouldn't be scared to be who you are."
"You can't sit and cry about it. It's not going to change what happened to him," Theresa Ornelas said. "He has no choice but to move forward. And if his story can help someone else, then so be it. That's all I want from this."
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