At first, the 31-year-old gay tourist wanted to see the men accused of calling him slurs, punching him and kicking him inside a Hard Rock Hotel parking garage behind bars.
But in the days since the attack, Darnell Morgan has had a change of heart. He said he has forgiven the five men who face a hate crime charge in the June 1 attack on him.
Love trumps hate, Morgan said.
“I felt like there was something more that could happen from this particular situation,” Morgan said in a Friday phone interview.
Morgan was visiting Las Vegas for his sister’s wedding, and he and his family were celebrating Sunday at a dayclub, Rehab Las Vegas. Morgan passed a stranger, Eidryce Marks, as he was leaving toward the parking garage to get a ride. Marks is accused of making a homophobic comment, which Morgan said caught him a little off guard.
But as Morgan tried to brush it off and walk past, Marks threw a punch, according to Morgan and police. The two fought, and soon enough Marks’ and Morgan’s friends joined in.
Morgan, who lives in Atlanta but travels for work, suffered cuts and had pain in his jaw, and he was treated at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center.
Security guards broke up the fight, and officers from the Metropolitan Police Department arrested Marks and four others, Keron Cumberbatch, Aaron Bob-Goldman, Damion Campbell and Rashon Wiggins.
Prosecutors charged all five with a hate crime, which Morgan initially supported.
But he’s since asked the Clark County district attorney’s office to drop the charges. The district attorney’s office was still pursuing charges as of Friday, court records show, and a call to the office wasn’t returned Friday.
Morgan hopes that a conversation with the five men about the struggles of LGBT people will help change minds and open hearts.
Morgan said he reached out to Marks through social media on Tuesday. Within 10 minutes, they were on the phone, discussing life, their upbringings and God. Marks apologized during the roughly three-hour phone call.
“I really felt like he was sorry for what they’d done,” Morgan said.
Later that night, Morgan drove from working in Phoenix to Las Vegas so he could attend their court date the next morning. There, Morgan said, he spoke with the other men accused in his attack and said they apologized, saying the attack never should’ve happened.
The apology felt sincere and it meant a lot, considering his experiences with bullying growing up, Morgan said.
“I was never able to face them like that and was never able to have a conversation like that,” he said.
Morgan also shared his story with Andre Wade, the executive directer of The Center. Wade said the organization supports Morgan’s decision to forgive the accused attackers and called their apologies “a great outcome.”
“Sometimes compassion can be more powerful than punishment,” Wade said.
Morgan said the experience strengthened his faith. He grew up in the church and had a relationship with God, but Morgan said the experience has helped him to apply his religious teachings — such as forgiveness — to his daily life.
He said he hopes the five men and others can learn from his experience and practice compassion, understanding and acceptance for gay people.
“Everybody gets put in the pine box,” he said.