APPLETON - Alleged hate crimes are rare in Appleton, but city officials say they do happen a couple times each year.
"It's just a reminder that hate is everywhere, including Appleton, Wisconsin," said Kathy Flores, the Diversity Coordinator for the City of Appleton.
Police Sergeant David Lund told FOX 11 an alleged incident from Monday night is one example.
Lund said that night Thomas Pruett was with a group of people at Jones Park, including a person who was born a man, but now identifies as a woman. According to Lund, Pruett started verbally attacking that person.
"There were slurs towards the victim's gender identity at the time of the incident," explained Lund.
Authorities told us Pruett attacked the victim for using what he said was the wrong bathroom.
"They were gong into the men's bathroom, the person came up to the victim and kicked the victim in the ribs, started beating the victim," explained Flores.
According to Flores, the victim was left with a broken eye socket bone, cuts and bruises.
Kathy Flores: "the victim is just coming to terms at this point with the trauma that's happened."
Pruett is now facing substantial battery and disorderly conduct charges, both with hate crime enhancers. That means Pruett could face an additional 6 years in prison if convicted on both charges. Gender identity falls under Wisconsin hate crime statutes.
"The hate crime enhancer is out there to protect people," explained Lund.
Appleton recently started a campaign called INCLUDE to show support for the LGBT community. The campaign featured events like an anti-bullying film screening.
Flores told us this alleged incident is a setback, but also a lesson.
"I would hope that people come away from this realizing everybody has the right to be who they are and to enjoy Appleton as they want to enjoy Appleton without being harassed and without being hurt," said Flores.
Pruett's preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.
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