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'Gutter Punks' in Wicker Park Beaten in Late Night Attack, Several Injured

By Alisa Hauser | August 13, 2013 9:59am | Updated on August 13, 2013 5:56pm
 A group of 10 traveling gutter punks that were in the park around 9:30 p.m. Sunday were attacked by three men. The brawl went into the street and sent a 31-year-old homeless man to the hospital with lacerations that required stitches, police confirmed.
Travelers Beaten in Park
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WICKER PARK —  A group of homeless, traveling young people who come to Chicago during the summer — referred to as "gutter punks" by some — said they were beaten in Wicker Park by three men after one of the attackers was angered by a traveler urinating in the park bushes.

The attackers used a 2-by-4 and an adjustable wrench owned by one of travelers to beat the group during the 10 p.m. Sunday attack in the park's southwest corner, witnesses said.

A 31-year-old traveler was hospitalized. Several others with injuries refused medical treatment, including a woman punched twice in the jaw.

People who hang out in the park suspect the attack stemmed from a growing aggravation by gang members in the park with the traveling homeless.

No one has been arrested, and police aren't sure of a motive for the assault.

Felicity Barnshaw, 23, was part of the group of about 10 travelers —  all 20- and 30-somethings — who was attacked.

Barnshaw said a large man — about 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds —  approached a traveler who was urinating in the bushes in the southwest corner of Wicker Park, near Schiller Street and Damen Avenue.

"He said, 'I don't want to see your d---.' He called us pieces of s---. He said 'You're nasty, you're peeing in the bushes,' " Barnshaw said.

According to Barnshaw and others in her group, the attacking man was with another large man and smaller man. A quarrel started, leading to a brawl between the three men and the travelers.

The wrench used in the attack is owned by a travelers who say they have it to open fire hydrants when it gets hot.

Lee Aadahl Jr., 31, suffered the brunt of the injuries and was taken to Stroger Hospital and given 14 staples to treat cuts, friends said. Aadahl, from Massachusetts, joined the travelers in Wicker Park four days before the incident.

Dane Halverson, 28, suffered a gash to his forehead in the Sunday attack but refused medical attention. So did Matt Medina, 18, who was hit in the back of the head with a 2-by-4.

Barnshaw said she was punched twice in the jaw and hit in her ribs.

Officer Ron Gaines, a Chicago Police Department spokesman, said the attackers fled, and no one was arrested.

Barnshaw said she and other travelers have been harassed before while urinating in public — but "not this bad."

Kevin Gavert, 46, who is homeless, was among several witnesses to the aftermath of the beating. Gavert said he was panhandling near the park Sunday night when he saw squad cars and watched Aadahl being loaded into an ambulance.

Gavert said he believes "the travelers brought [the attack] on themselves."

"Since they've been here, they've been getting unruly in the park," Gavert said.

Gavert and others said the men who attacked the travelers are members of a local gang. "Them boys [who attacked them] said this is where we live every day of every year," Gavert said.

Adam Rotter, who lives and works in Wicker Park, did not witness the fight but heard about it while hanging out in the park Monday.

"What's funny is that the two coolest kids out of the whole crowd got hurt the worst. They were trying to defend everyone else," Rotter said of Aadahl and Halverson.

At the Shakespeare District Police station at 2150 N. California Ave. late Monday, Officer Mel Huback said the attack "wasn't right."

"Society shuns a lot of people without knowing their intent. Who knows why people put a label on these kids?" Huback said.

Barnshaw said she's been traveling since she was 17, leaving behind her "small s--- a-- town, boring as hell" in Pennsylvania. She plans to leave Wicker Park in a few days and head to New York.

A Stroger Hospital representative confirmed Aadahl was treated late Sunday and released Monday, but the victim couldn't be found for comment.

Meanwhile, the group brought an acoustic guitar and other belongings to Aadahl to onTuesday. He was too shaken up to return to Wicker Park, another traveler named E.J. said.

Aadahl will be heading out to California and "traveling again, going to some place where the poetry and music scene is better," E.J. said.

"We're worried about him," Barnshaw said.