December 31, 2011 in City

Trio recount South Hill beating

Students say they tried to avoid encounter in Comstock Park
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

From left, Trevor DuPree, Jacob Culberson and Joe Zoeske talk Friday about being chased and assaulted by four young men in Comstock Park earlier in the week. Culberson took the brunt of the beating, suffering a broken nose and broken facial bones.
(Full-size photo)

Crime Check

Anyone with information on the assault is asked to call Crime Check at

(509) 456-2233.

Jacob Culberson had never experienced anything like it. Back in Spokane on Christmas break from college, the 18-year-old was out with his former Christian school classmates when they were attacked early Tuesday on the South Hill.

It began as an odd encounter with four men in a light-colored 1990s sedan on 29th Avenue about 1:30 a.m.

They asked Culberson and his three friends if they wanted to fight, then if they were their friends. The men left but reappeared after Culberson and his friends had left a store and were walking back to a friend’s home. The sedan pulled alongside the men so they cut through Comstock Park – the shortest route home. But the men followed.

“That’s when they attacked us,” said Trevor DuPree, a 19-year-old freshman at Washington State University and a graduate of Oaks Classical Christian Academy in Spokane Valley.

DuPree, Culberson, 19-year-old Joe Koeske and their 16-year-old friend recounted the attack Friday afternoon at a home in northwest Spokane. They talked to police that night to file a report, though no detective has been assigned to follow up. The men said police were concerned they were in the park past the 10 p.m. closing time, but they said they only entered the park to try to escape the men.

A similar unprovoked attack – this one involving a group of 10 juveniles outside the Spokane Arena – left a young couple injured on July 4. No one has been arrested in that case.

Culberson doesn’t remember much from the attack, but he believes the men stole his wallet, iPod and pocketknife. DuPree was able to escape with his wallet after he told the men he didn’t have one when they demanded it. He still has marks on his head from what could have been his attacker’s knees – his memory is hazy.

Koeske, a freshman at Seattle Pacific University, wasn’t hurt but witnessed the attack and heard one of the assailants repeatedly make a profane reference to sexual relations with the devil.

“It was just not good stuff,” Koeske said.

DuPree said one of the men threatened to kill him should he ever return to their “turf,” which apparently is the Comstock Park area.

The men estimate the assault lasted a few minutes.

“One of the only things I remember is not knowing whether to fight back or not,” Culberson said. He just wanted the beating to end – fighting back could have made it worse. Koeske agreed.

“I didn’t want to get involved because I thought if I did it might get worse,” he said.

DuPree said he tried to push one of the men but was quickly rebuked. “They said something like, ‘Oh, you don’t do that,’ ” he recalled Friday.

The friends called police from Koeske’s home. It was the second such call: Their 16-year-old friend had called police during the assault. Police also were called at the hospital where Culberson sought treatment. Two officers eventually arrived and took an initial report.

Now Culberson is preparing to undergo reconstructive surgery on his nose before returning to Nashville, Tenn., where he’s a freshman at Vanderbilt University. He was one of 24 high school students honored last year with a scholarship from the Spokane Scholars Foundation.

Culberson said he encourages everyone to invest in whatever self-defense methods are legally available.

But the seemingly random nature of Tuesday’s attack makes it difficult to prevent, he said.

“This isn’t a place that you would normally be on the lookout for something to happen,” he said of the South Hill park.

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