Black woman says she was beaten, called a monkey by white couple in Mystic
Mystic — A Black woman from Groton says a white couple from New York beat her, called her an "old monkey" and said her life didn't matter as she worked at the Quality Inn on Route 27 Friday morning.
Crystal Caldwell, 59, said she was working her part-time job at the front desk about 11 a.m. when a man staying at the hotel called to tell her his hot water wasn’t working. When Caldwell said she would have someone come fix it or could move them to a different room, the man became irate and swore at her. He said he was sending his girlfriend down to “kick her ass” so she hung up.
Within minutes, the man came down to the front desk. Caldwell alerted her general manager and executive housekeeper, who spoke with the man as he continued to threaten her. When she responded, the man ran toward her and jumped to swing at her over the desk, she said. She fought back and was punched repeatedly in the head, suffering a concussion, a swollen face and a badly injured right eye.
The man, who was white, called Caldwell an “old monkey” while punching her, she said.
Police were called to the scene, and Caldwell said she was asked to wait in the employee lounge while police reviewed surveillance footage. She was told not to leave the room but ventured out into the hall to get ice to apply to her rapidly swelling face because she didn’t know an ambulance was on its way.
While in the hall, she said, the girlfriend of the man who attacked her shouted at her for scratching her boyfriend. The couple then closed in on her, pushing her up against the wall and then onto the ground where she said they repeatedly kicked her in the back, injuring her ribs. The man lifted his foot to stomp on Caldwell’s face, but she said was able to push herself off of the ground.
During both attacks — the second of which Caldwell says occurred while police were in the building — the man and woman hurled racial slurs at Caldwell, repeatedly calling her a “monkey” and saying “Black Lives Matter? Your life doesn’t matter, you don’t deserve to live on this earth.’”
She said both of her attackers were white and in their late 20s or early 30s.
Caldwell was taken to Pequot Health Center, where she said doctors told her she’d injured her wrist, back, ribs, head and eye. She was diagnosed with a concussion and ordered to see a specialist for a severe injury to her right eye. She’s had double vision in the eye since the attack, she said.
On Monday, she sat in her living room in Groton with a brace on her wrist and an ice pack on her neck, asking her family members to turn out the lights because her head was aching from her concussion.
She broke down in tears as she described the attack, saying that she can’t get the image of the man’s foot coming down to stomp on her face out of her mind.
“I am almost 60 years old, for him to want to physically fight me is very, very, very, very hard for me,” she said.
Because of the things the couple said to her, she thinks the attack was racially motivated and she plans to speak up about what happened until justice is served.
“We are people, we deserve to be here, I’m an American citizen, I pay taxes. My people don’t deserve to die, we don’t deserve to die,” she said. “You want to physically harm us and kill us for what? The color of my skin?”
“I’m not foreign, I’m from here. I’m just darker than they are. And I don’t deserve to be treated any different, it’s not right and it has to stop,” she said.
Caldwell, who was a renowned track and field athlete at New London High School, said she has worked a few days a week for the hotel for about seven years after retiring from a 20-year career with Continental Airlines, just to keep herself busy.
Usually, she said, the most they get is guests complaining about issues in their room they can easily fix. She said this man was so angry she feared for her life.
“I should not have to be begging for my life, that was devastating because there's people that are dying, that are dead,” she said. “This goes beyond police, these are just regular people, American citizens with hate. That man had so much hate for me in his heart.”
Supporters rally in front of Stonington police station
On Monday afternoon, about a dozen people braved torrential rain to stand outside the Stonington Police Department in a show of support for Caldwell. The group included some of her relatives and members of Southeastern Connecticut's We Won’t Stand Down, Black Lives Matter 860 and the Connecticut Parents Union.
The group called on the police department to charge the man and woman with felony hate crimes, hold them on the appropriate bail for those charges, explain why they were not arrested at the hospital and release 911 calls and the police report associated with the incident as well as the surveillance video of the assault from the Quality Inn.
Caldwell’s nephew, Wayne Rawls, was in the crowd.
Over the weekend Rawls said he received a Facebook message from a woman named Keli Arias, telling him he had his story “twisted” and that she and her boyfriend were the ones who called the police.
In the message, she called Caldwell and her family monkeys. She said that she and her boyfriend were still in contact with police — “their coming to make a report about u monkeys again. Dont get shot. Enjoy ur ghetto news I know the old b*tch wants to feel important.”
Outside the police station Monday Rawls said that if, as a Black man, he had assaulted someone in that way, he “would’ve been handcuffed to the bed” in the hospital, not allowed to leave freely.
“There was no arrest.They took them to the hospital, still not arrested. They were allowed to come back to the [hotel ] grab their belongings and leave, are you serious?” Rawls said. “I know if it was me, I’d be under the prison, I’d be underneath this jail still.”
“I just want justice, take care of my aunt,” he said.
Police say they are seeking arrest warrant
Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson said that on Friday, officers were called to the Quality Inn because of a verbal dispute between a clerk and a New York couple. Olson said the dispute turned physical and all three were taken to the hospital.
Olson said officers then determined the New York man, whose name he did not release, had been the aggressor and contacted Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where he was being treated so they could go there and arrest him.
But Olson said the hospital did not want officers to come into the hospital due to COVID-19 precautions. At some point, Olson said, the man was released from the hospital, returned to the hotel, got his car and fled to New York.
Olson said that when police contacted the man Sunday to say they had charges against him, the man responded "with some choice words and hung up." Olson said police are now obtaining a warrant for his arrest.
"We have every intent of arresting him," said Olson, who said he has heard that the BLM group has expressed concern that police did not intend to arrest the man. "We reached out to the organization so they have the correct information, and we understand their concerns as well."
Olson said police are slated to interview Caldwell on Tuesday morning and obtain a written statement from her. Olson said that could result in additional charges against the couple.
Police have reviewed video from the hotel, but the recordings do not have audio. Olson said he believed the second assault on Caldwell occurred before police arrived.
Gwen Samuel, president of the Connecticut Parents Union, said she felt Caldwell’s attackers were being protected. She called on Gov. Ned Lamont to declare racism a public health crisis.
“They’re killing us,” she said of racists. “The dangers of what Stonington police did by allowing these suspects to leave emboldens other people who are evil who want to hurt people.”
Those people, she said “will think Connecticut is the place to go, you can hurt Black people.”
Lashawn Robinson, of Black Lives Matter 860, said in her statement that she planned to reach out to the governor of New York to demand a warrant for the couple’s arrest.
“This is a problem, you don’t come to Connecticut and assault a woman who is 59 years old and think you’re going to leave and it’s going to be all right,” she said. “We’re going to make noise and make sure that they are held accountable for their actions, you don’t come here and assault one of our elders and just go home.”
Staff writer Joe Wojtas contributed to this report.