Police: Suspect in attack on gay teen arrested

Trevon Godbolt
This still image taken from video shows Trevon Godbolt, accused of assaulting a teen because of his sexual orientation. (Nov. 7, 2017)

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police say the man who beat a 17-year-old and stripped the victim of his clothes during a robbery has been arrested.

Authorities say the victim was targeted because he is gay.

Muskegon Heights officers were called to the scene around 8 p.m. Saturday after getting calls of a naked male in the area of Edgewood School at East Summit Avenue and Howden Street. Police say the 17-year-old victim was lured to that area, which is where the beating happened. The suspect restrained him as he took his cellphone and clothes, according to the criminal complaint filed in court.

An officer found the naked teen walking to his aunt’s house. The victim was taken to the hospital by ambulance and has since been released.

Muskegon Heights Police Chief Joseph Thomas Jr. told 24 Hour News 8 the attack on the teen was recorded and posted on Facebook. Police determined from audio of that recording that the victim was beaten because he is gay. In the video, the attacker can be heard calling the victim gay and using the N-word and another expletive as he punched the victim.

Police used the video to identify the suspect as 18-year-old Trevon Lee Godbolt, Thomas said.

Michigan State Police arrested Godbolt on Blue Lake Road Tuesday night based on a tip from Silent Observer, the chief said.

Silent Observer was offering a reward of up to $500 for information leading to Godbolt’s arrest.

“Just knowing somebody like this is walking the streets, it bothers me. It bothers me deeply,” the chief said Tuesday afternoon, before Godbolt was taken into custody. “And I want to sleep well tonight, and we’re going to hunt him down, the animal he is.”

Godbolt faces charges of unarmed robbery and unlawful imprisonment, both 15-year felonies, for the assault.

The prosecutor’s office says it also considered a felony charge of ethnic intimidation against Godbolt, but determined current guidelines for the charge do not include crimes based on sexual orientation. Last year, a Senate bill that would have incorporated sexual orientation into the charge never made it out of committee.

“I don’t get to make the laws, I just get to enforce the laws that are made,” Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said. “And we’re hoping that this will highlight the need to make change in this particular law.”

In a statement earlier in the day, Hilson said his office was “outraged” by the assault and said he would “work to protect this particular victim and any other victim that is targeted because of his or her sexual identity or orientation.”

The police chief says he contacted the FBI to pursue a federal hate crime charge against the suspect.

Authorities say one or two other people were present during the beating. The prosecutor’s office said it will consider charges against anyone who played a role in the crime.

–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean contributed to this report.