Crystal Caldwell, a 59-year-old Black hotel desk clerk at the Quality Inn in Mystic, Connecticut, said she was punched, kicked and called a “monkey” in what she described as a racially motivated attack by two hotel guests, according to The Day.
Caldwell told The Day that she feared for her life.
The couple who allegedly committed the attack, Philip Sarner and Emily Orbay, has been charged with assault and hate crime enhancers. An investigation has been opened into why the arrests came weeks after the initial assault.
Caldwell Said The Attack Took Place After the Guests Called With A Complaint
Caldwell said that she was attacked twice, once when Sarner came to the front desk and again by Sarner and Orbay while Caldwell said she was putting ice on her face from the initial attack, according to the Middletown Press.
It all started when Sarner called the front desk to report that his hot water was not working, The Day reported. Caldwell told him that she could have someone fix it or she could move the couple to a different room. According to Caldwell, the man became enraged, began swearing and said that he was sending his girlfriend to “kick her ass.” Caldwell said she hung up.
Shortly after that, Sarner appeared at the front desk and Caldwell said she told her general manager and executive housekeeper who tried to speak with him and calm him down. However, Caldwell said that in response, Sarner tried to swing at her over the desk and the two began fighting, with Caldwell saying she was punched in the head by both Sarner and Orbay. Caldwell also said that the man called her an “old monkey” during the initial attack.
In a video, Caldwell said she was sent to the employee break room, which she left to get ice for her swelling face.
Caldwell’s colleague called police, according to reports from NBC-Connecticut. Sarner also called police, telling a dispatcher, “I was just assaulted.”
While waiting for police and putting ice on her face, Caldwell said she was attacked a second time by both Sarner and Orbay, pushed, punched, kicked, thrown to the ground and stomped, WFSB reported. Caldwell alleges that both of her attackers verbally attacked her, according to The Day. She said that they called her a “monkey” and told her, “‘Black Lives Matter? Your life doesn’t matter, you don’t deserve to live on this earth.’”
Caldwell Said She Feared For Her Life During the Attack
Caldwell is from Groton and was a renowned track and field athlete at New London High School, The Day reported. She had spent 20 years at Continental Airlines before retiring and had taken a part-time job at the hotel for seven years to keep herself busy.
Immediately after the attack, Caldwell was taken to Pequot Health Center and she said that suffered injuries to her wrist, back, ribs, head and eye. She was also diagnosed with a concussion and told that she will need a specialist for the injuries to her right eye. Caldwell told The Day that she has had double vision in her right eye and has relived the attack.
“I haven’t slept, it’s hard to sleep,” Caldwell told in a video interview with local TV station CBS-2. In another video, Caldwell said she remembers being kicked in the back. “This is the last thing I saw and it has traumatized me every second. I haven’t slept well, I have been sleeping in pain and this makes me cry because he went to stomp my face.”
I am almost 60 years old, for him to want to physically fight me is very, very, very, very hard for me.
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. You want to physically harm us and kill us for what? The color of my skin?
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.
Caldwell also said that she was greatly disturbed by the racial overtones of the attack.
“I should not have to be begging for my life, that was devastating because there’s people that are dying, that are dead,” she told The Day. “This goes beyond police, these are just regular people, American citizens with hate. That man had so much hate for me in his heart.”
Protesters Have Demanded To Know Why The Couple’s Arrest Took Weeks
Immediately after the incident, both parties were taken to different hospitals, CBS-2 reported. However, given the surveillance footage, protesters have demanded to know why Stonington police did not apprehend the couple right away.
The local Hartford TV station Fox-61 reported that U.S. Marshals and New York police arrested 38-year-old Philip Sarner and 28-year-old Emily Orbay in Brooklyn on July 13.
They were extradited to Connecticut, and charged with several crimes – Sarner was charged with second-degree assault, third-degree assault and intimidation “based on bigotry and bias” and Orbay was charged with two counts of third-degree assault and intimidation “based on bigotry and bias,” according to WFSB. Sarner was given a $75,000 bond and Orbay was given a $50,000 bond. on July 14, they were released on bond and are set to return July 29.
Caldwell’s attorney, John Strafaci, said that although he was glad the two were arrested and charged, he believes race was a fact in why they weren’t arrested earlier. Instead, Stonington Police interviewed Caldwell, Sarner and Orbay, but did not arrest anyone and warrants were not issued until July 1, Fox-61 reported. “There were several witnesses that documented that they were the aggressors,” Strafaci said. “If Crystal had been a 59-year-old white lady from Mystic, Connecticut and it was two black individuals that brutally assaulted her, the two black individuals would’ve been arrested on the spot and incarcerated.”
Caldwell’s nephew, Wayne Rawls, agreed. “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.”
Caldwell’s case was taken up by members of Southeaster Connecticut’s We Won’t Stand Down, Black Lives Matter 860 and the Connecticut Parents Union, who held a protest outside of the Stonington Police Department, The Day reported. Rawls also attended that protest and has been the target of hateful messages via Facebook. According to Caldwell, a woman named Keli Arias sent a Facebook message, which read, “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.”
Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson said that the hospital prevented police from coming inside due to COVID concerns, allowing the couple to escape, return to the hotel, and then drive to New York. “We had every intent on arresting him,” he said.
In response to the backlash, however, Stonington police announced via Facebook that they were opening an external review conducted by an independent law firm to determine why the couple were not arrested or cuffed at the scene. “Findings from the review will be shared with the public,” the statement read.