'It's been trying at times but it's also been a learning experience for me': Brave TV producer who was nearly killed in random gang attack speaks out for the first time
- Ray Widstrand, 27, suffered serious brain injuries in August
- This week, Widstrand began constructing sentences and gave his first interview
- He faces months, possibly years, of intensive therapy to recover from his injuries
- Widstrand walked past '30 to 50' youths involved in a street fight
- The group turned on him, beat him unconscious, robbed and stripped him
Ray Widstrand, who sustained serious brain injuries after being viciously attacked as he walked home in Minneapolis in August, is slowly making a recovery.
Widstrand, 27, who has only just begun constructing sentences again, gave his first interview from his wheelchair at a fundraiser held in Minneapolis today to help the Widstrand family to pay for his treatments.
Speaking slowly and haltingly, Widstrand told a local news station that he has no recollection of the night heartless youths robbed and beat him to the brink of death.
Slow recovery: Ray Widstrand will face months and possibly years as therapy as he recovers from the serious brain injury he sustained when gang members beat him mercilessly
The 27-year-old was walking home in his neighborhood on St Paul’s East Side on August 4 when he was attacked by a group of 30 to 50 juveniles and young adults.
He was hit in the head with a 'can in a
sock', stomped on, had his pants ripped off him and was robbed. He was
placed in a medically-induced coma when he was taken to hospital.
Wearing a helmet to protect his head, Widstrand spoke about the difficulties he has faced in the two months since the beating occurred.
'It's been trying at times,' he said.
'But it's also been a learning experience for me,' Widstrand told KSTP.
'I quit smoking since I've been in the hospital. I eat less junk food. I'm healthier, so that has been nice.'
Assaulted: Ray Widstrand suffered potentially fatal brain swelling after he was attacked by a gang of youths
Widstrand has already undergone two surgeries for brain swelling and skull fractures and will face a third in November.
He has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation at Courage Kenny Rehab Institute where he's slowly re-learning basic skills like walking and speaking.
Widstrand told KSTP that he faces months of physical, occupational and and speech therapy as he recovers from his serious brain injury.
Despite the hardships he has faced, Widstrand has been overwhelmed by the love and support of his family and community.
'Seeing all the support - I just had a birthday last month, and it has been so cool, getting all the cards,' said Widstrand, who turned 27 on August 31.
The public-access television producer will remain in hospital in the coming months, with a tentative release date of December 1.
'They're talking December first,' said Widstrand's father Peter Widstrand, who says he doesn't know if his son will be able to move home.
'Moving somewhere,' Widstrand said. 'Moving on to the next thing.'
Widstrand says he has no recollection of the night his life changed forever.
'I didn't even know I got beaten up till the next day,' he said.
'It was longer than the next day,' said his father.
'To me it seemed like the next day,' Widstrand said.
Support: Widstrand must wear a helmet to protect his head and has not yet learned how to walk again since the sickening bashing that left him in a coma
He suffered 'potentially fatal brain swelling' and 'permanent and protracted loss of brain function' as a result of the beating.
Peter Widstrand told The Pioneer Press: 'It seems every day we see some steps
forward. Every day, I see something,
whether it's in his eyes or something he does.
We're still in the place where we don't know if he'll return to work or
return home. We might not know for years. Progress can stop tomorrow.
It might not stop two years from now.'
The television producer had moved to an apartment in the Minnesota city two months before the attack and was working for a local community channel.
Family support: Ray Widstrand's parents Linda and Peter spoke during a press conference alongside his sister Alice, expressing their shock and disbelief at the violent assault on their son and brother
Crime scene: Mr Widstrand was walking through his local neighbourhood on St Paul's East Side when he was brutally assaulted, robbed and stripped
Brutal beating: After Mr Widstrand was knocked over one person was seen stomping on his head after which a third stripped him of his trousers to search his pockets
Speaking at a press conference in August, Peter Widstrand said his son had never ‘expressed any concerns’ about living on the East Side.
‘I can't imagine why someone would do this to another person. Hopefully they will at least answer to that,’ Peter Widstrand added.
In custody: Isaac Maiden, 19, has been charged with over the attack on Mr Widstrand
The large group was fighting on a street located mere blocks from the local police station and turned the violence on Widstrand when he tried to get past them, witnesses told police.
A local newspaper reported that the fight had started at a party nearby and a group of girls had taken it to the street after which the brawl escalated into a bust-up between local gangs.
‘An innocent man was walking down the street and brutally attacked by a group of youth,’ police spokesman Sergeant Paul Paulos, told Pioneer Press.
‘He was out for a walk and decided to go through this group and was assaulted and knocked unconscious.’
According to the police report, Widstrand was hit over the head with a ‘can in a sock’ which knocked him to the ground.
Witnesses reported seeing blood coming from his head after which a second man stomped on his head while a third removed Widstrand’s trousers and the group searched his pockets.
Police found Widstrand lying on the ground, bleeding from his nose and mouth, his pants removed and shirt torn, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Ramsey County attorney's office.
Tips from witnesses led to five arrests: 19-year-old Issac Maiden and four juveniles. Trials for the underage teens, two of whom are just 15 years old, are underway.
Maiden has been charged with first-degree assault, first-degree aggravated robbery and crime committed for the benefit of a gang.
'To have this happen - it seems just - why?" Widstrand's mother Linda Widstrand told KSTC.
'It's just, it seems unreal. It just doesn't seem real.'
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