CLOVIS, Calif. – On June 14th, also known as Flag Day, Patty Dawson dropped her Apache uncle off at the Fresno train station after a family visit, and headed for home around 2:30 p.m.
What happened next she will never forget.
Dawson, who is Navajo and San Carlos Apache, said she was at a stop sign in the small town of Clovis when a car behind her bumped into her lightly. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw three people in the car, and decided to keep going.
As she continued down the two-lane highway, the car behind her sped up alongside her and tried to force her off the road. Dawson said she tried to evade them, but the car then tried passing her on the right dirt shoulder of the road, forcing her into the oncoming traffic lane.
Fearful of their intentions, Dawson headed for the next business she saw, an Arco station with people in the parking lot where she thought she’d be safe.
Before she could get out of her car, she was attacked by one of three people, who she described as “skinheads,” that had followed her into the parking lot.
Witnesses told police they saw a white woman and two men with swastika tattoos and shaved heads kick and beat Dawson, leaving her unconscious and bleeding in the parking lot.
Dawson, a mother of a young family, said all she remembers is a woman covered in tattoos spitting on her, then hitting her so hard she blacked out. Two men – one with a swastika tattoo on his face and the other with a shaved head – joined in the beating, but it was mainly the woman attacking her, according to witness statements to the local police.
Cindy Dawson, the victim’s sister, said Patty woke up in a Fresno emergency room, in shock and pain, and unable to remember her name.
“She had a broken nose and a concussion when she was released,” said Cindy. “I don’t think they should have let her go without a thorough exam. I think she also had a broken rib, and now she may have to have surgery for her injuries.”
Cindy Dawson also said her sister is having a hard time coping with the trauma of an inexplicable and random attack. “She has no idea why anyone would do this to her, and she’s trying to recover from her injuries.”
Because of a lack of federal funding to Indian Health Service facilities, Dawson was told that if her injuries required rehabilitation or surgery, she would have to travel to the nearest IHS facility in Phoenix, Arizona for medical care.
“My sister is a kind and quiet person who did nothing to deserve this,” said Cindy. The family has no insurance, so treatment for trauma or counseling is out of reach, and she worries how this will affect them in the long term.
“Her head injuries are still causing vomiting and other problems, and there’s damage to her upper cheek. The doctor told my sister she’s not to be working and she was the sole source of income for her family. We’re still waiting to hear from victim’s services to see if we can get some assistance.”
She speculated that ongoing racial tensions and “deep-rooted hatred for Indian people” in the region was part of the motive for the attack on her sister.
The family has been concerned that they were not getting a response from local police, despite repeated calls by family and community members.
“My dad and I started contacting people because we couldn’t believe something like this could happen without being noticed. People need to be aware of this, and the fact that no one was punished,” said Cindy.
ICTMN left messages at the Clovis Sheriff’s Department for the detective assigned to the case, but calls were not returned. Another staff member said he was on vacation.
“Detective Tuscano from the Sheriff’s Department assured my sister that they will find the people who did this to her,” said Cindy. “I’m told they may know who the assailants are because witnesses reported the license plate number.”
In the meantime, the family is trying to get on with life and seeking treatment for Patty’s physical and emotional trauma.
A fund has been set up to help the Dawson family. Those who wish to help may contribute at any Wells Fargo Bank, to the Patty Dawson One Love Fund.