Only days before President Obama signed legislation to expand the definition of a hate crime, The Luncheon Society met with Judy Shepard, whose son is memorialized in the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act .
On the evening of October 6, 1998, two men lured a 21 year old University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard to a grisly death. Both assailants targeted the young man because they believed that he was gay. They befriended him, shared drinks, and offered him a ride home. However, they drove him to a remote location, where he was robbed, tortured, and brutally beaten. One of the assailants pistol-whipped Shepard with such force that it crushed his skull inward. He was left for dead, with his hands tied to a fencepost just outside of Laramie, Wyoming.
Somehow, what remained of Matthew Shepard survived the cold night in a deep coma. Suffering from hypothermia, he was discovered by a mountain biker the next day, who at first mistook the young man for a scarecrow. Shepard’s head, face, and neck were caked in blood and only wiped clean where tears had streamed down his face. He was rushed to the local hospital in Laramie, Wyoming before being transferred to another hospital in Ft. Collins Colorado. The prognosis was grim. He suffered severe brain stem damage as a result of the attack’s savage nature. He never regained consciousness and died five days later surrounded by his family and a nation horrified by what took place. Continue reading