Watch: Ohio Student Attacked While Wearing Pride Flag as a Coming Out Gesture

Tuesday June 1, 2021

Tristen Torrez
Tristen Torrez  (Source:Screencap/WTOL)

A middle school student in Defiance, Ohio, was attacked by another student while standing on bleachers with a Pride flag wrapped around his shoulders. The flag was his way of coming out, he told local news station WTOL.

Footage of the attack went viral on social media. It shows Tristen Torrez, 14, standing on the bleachers at Defiance Middle School with the flag wrapped around his shoulders when another student approaches him from behind, grabs him, and then throws him down. Torrez falls headfirst and sprawls across several levels of the bleachers. The footage then shows the attacker yanking the flag off Torrez and grabbing him before someone else obstructs the view.

Torrez described the attack to the news channel, saying that the assailant "pulled me down, which I don't even remember happened." The other student then "poured water on me" and "started choking me," Torrez recalled.

The assault happened on May 27 during a time when students were allowed outside for the last day of the school year.

Torrez's mother told the news channel that her son was "so used to the bullying" he suffered at school "that it's kind of nothing to him; but to me it's just heartbreaking."

The report said that Torrez wore the flag "as a message: He wanted to show his support for the LGBTQ community and show his classmates he is openly gay."

Torrez speculated that the other student attacked him either because someone dared them to do it, or because they had been told, falsely, that Torrez had used a racial slur.

When WTOL reached out to officials for comment, Bob Morton, the superintendent for the city's schools, responded that the attack "was dealt with swiftly with school administration and local law enforcement."

"Situations like this are taken seriously," Morton added.

The incident was similar to an attack against Chad Sanford, a 13-year-old LGBTQ student at Deerfield Beach Middle School in Broward County, Florida, in which an older student grabbed the sixth grader from behind and then slammed them to the hallway floor.

Describing the attack, Sanford said the assailant, an eighth grader, "just stepped on my face, they were kicking and spitting on me." Sanford recalled the assailant screaming, "We got that gay fa***t."

That assault was also captured on video and then shared widely on social media. Sanford told local news channel WPLG Local 10 that the incident was the culmination of bullying they endured throughout the school year.

Watch the WTOL news clip below.