— By CHRISTIN COYNE
SPRINGTOWN – A Labor Day beating that left a gay Springtown man seriously injured is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Brice Alexaxon Johnson, 18, reportedly told police that he couldn’t find a pulse after beating Arron Keahey, 24, who had come to meet at Johnson at his Springtown home after the two became aquainted through meetme.com, and that he initially thought he killed Keahey.
Keahey was hospitalized as a result of the attack, which reportedly left him with a subdural hematoma and multiple fractures to his head.
Johnson was arrested on Sept. 10 on a charge of second-degree felony aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.
After taking the initial report regarding the attack on Sept. 2, Springtown Police Lt. Curtis Stone said he began investigating the beating as a possible hate crime since the attack might have occurred because of a prejudice or bias against the victim’s sexual orientation.
If a hate crime enhancement is added to make it a first-degree felony charge, Stone said it would happen after the case is handed over to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.
The attack is believed to have occurred during the early morning hours of Labor Day.
Paramedics reportedly contacted authorities around 7 a.m. after Johnson brought Keahey to the Springtown LifeCare station.
Initial reports from medics indicated they were concerned and that Keahey’s injuries could be life-threatening, Stone said.
After Keahey awoke at a Fort Worth hospital, he told reportedly told Stone that he remembered going to meet a man he knew as “Michael” from a social networking phone app but had not made it into the house when he was attacked on the front porch.
Though Keahey is doing a lot better than when he first saw him in the hospital and is talking more, Stone said Keahey hasn’t been able to remember many of the details after the assault began.
Stone said it’s not clear whether that is due to a memory issue after the assault or because he was already unconscious.
Asked what happened, Johnson initially told police that he heard a car alarm going off outside his house and went outside to find Keahey in the trunk of Keahey’s vehicle with injuries and a truck leaving the residence, according to police. Johnson later admitted to making up the story and told police that he invited Keahey over and that they were outside talking when Keahey made an unwanted advance toward him, according to Springtown police.
Johnson said Keahey then asked if Johnson wasn’t gay before Johnson denied it and began hitting Keahey, police reported. Johnson said he then blacked out and woke up to find Keahey lying on the ground, Stone reported.
Believing he had possibly killed Keahey, Johnson reportedly said he panicked and put Keahey into the trunk of his vehicle. Another man reportedly told Stone that Johnson transported Keahey to the man’s house in the trunk of a car and asked him for help. The man reportedly told Johnson to bring Keahey to the LifeCare station.
The suspect and victim’s accounts differ a little on whether they were meeting as friends, according to Stone.
Johnson, who said he is not gay, reportedly told police that Keahey “kind of came off” as homosexual but that he didn’t take it literally.
“I asked [Johnson] if there was anything during their online chat that would lead Arron to believe that’s what Brice was wanting him to come over for,” Stone wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
“Brice said, ‘Yeah, there’s gonna be something on there ‘cause I was joking back and forth with him.’ Brice said that he didn’t think Arron was ‘being for real’ during their online conversation.
Brice said, ‘There’s going to be things on there that looks like I’m being serious back with him.’”
Stone said he is preparing to seek a search warrant for the conversations through the website.
Johnson remained in the Parker County Jail Tuesday with bond set at $25,000.
According to the Austin-American Statesman last year, Texas law enforcement agencies have reported about 200 crimes yearly motivated by bias against a person’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other identifier.
However, prosecutors have earned a total of 10 convictions under the state’s hate crime statute that was adopted by the Legislature in 2001, less than one a year.