From a distance, Paul Meng wanted to do something.
Word of a Kent man’s disturbing, brutal beating in Auburn brought Meng back home.
He promptly organized a candlelight vigil in the sunshine and chill Saturday on the City Hall Plaza to allow supporters the chance to share their thoughts, words and prayers with the victim’s family.
DaShawn Horne, 26, remains in a coma at Harborview Medical Center with a traumatic head injury. The African-American man, a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service, was severely beaten, allegedly at the hands of an aluminum baseball bat-swinging Auburn man, on Jan. 20.
Law enforcement officials have called the beating a hate crime attack.
“We all wanted to come out and show support for DaShawn and his family, and make sure they know what happened and what their needs are going forward, so they can focus on his recovery,” said Meng, who lives in Eugene, Ore., where he is working on his Ph.D. in special education at the University of Oregon.
“We also came together to make sure that it’s real clear that we don’t accept this kind of racism in our community,” Meng said. “This is not something we’re prepared to tolerate.”
The outpouring of support was overwhelming but appreciated by the family. LaDonna Horne, who lives in Auburn, said Saturday that her son had just returned to the intensive care unit with a fever and slight bout of pneumonia.
“Minor setback,” she said. “He’s fighting back. He’s still fighting for his life. … We are praying for him.”
Rodney King is hopeful that his nephew will regain consciousness and walk out of the hospital. He thanked the group for their heartfelt show of support.
“DaShawn is a loving, passionate, charismatic, loyal, considerate, smart and giving young man,” King said. “He’s a great son, nephew, father and friend. He’s dependable, hard working and reliable.
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” King said. “Please keep him in your prayers and in your thoughts. DaShawn Horne could easily be John Smith … one of your sons. Hate has no color. Continue to practice love and treat your fellow man with compassion because like the old saying goes, ‘love conquers all.’ ”
Meanwhile, the case is now in the court system.
Julian Tuimauga, 18, pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and malicious harassment, the state’s statute for hate crimes, at his Feb. 5 arraignment in King County Superior Court at Kent’s Maleng Regional Justice Center.
Tuimauga, who is listed as Asian in court documents, is in county jail on $500,000 bail. The trial-setting date is March 5, although attorneys will ask for more time to prepare the case.
The Horne family hopes justice ultimately will be served.
“Racism can’t live here. We don’t accept it. We won’t accept it,” LaDonna Horne said. “We just have to keep on living … and love, love, love, no matter what.”
The Horne family has set up an up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of DaShawn’s recovery.