Video: Mormons stabbed in Sydney's "little Lebanon"

October 16, 2008

Videos here, here and here.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday that Chris Collinsworth, 19, of Mapleton, Utah, and David Ferguson, 21, of Great Falls, Mont., "suffered multiple non-life threatening stab wounds in an unprovoked attack ..."

Both were hospitalized after the attack Tuesday night...

A state police spokeswoman, speaking on the police policy condition of anonymity said that Collinsworth and Ferguson by three unknown men, who made no demands of the two missionaries. The men were described by as being Middle Eastern in their appearance, the spokeswoman said.

Alisa Collinsworth said her son was stabbed in the back near his kidney. She said Ferguson had the tendons cut in his hand and needed surgery...

"He said they were just walking him home when all of a sudden he just gets hit from the side, just slammed," his mother said.

Chris Collinsworth said he fought back, but told his parents that several men jumped on top of him. He got stabbed at some point during the "dog pile," his mother said.

Alisa Collinsworth said her son told her that Ferguson was cut and injured when he jumped in to get the attackers off his companion. Ferguson bled profusely and Collinsworth used a tie to make a tourniquet, his mother said.

Alisa Collinsworth said her son told her he also was held from behind and his shirt pulled over his head while several people kicked him in the face and stomach. The attack ended when a motorist pulled up and started yelling and pounding on his horn, she said...

Chris Collinsworth has only been on his mission in Sydney, Australia for six months, so his family was surprised to get a phone call from him early yesterday morning. It was news they never expected to hear: 19-year-old Chris and his companion had been attacked and stabbed.

On and off the court, Chris has proved he's not one to back down. Yesterday, he and fellow missionary, David Ferguson from Montana, were walking home when a man jumped Chris.

"He's just going along, and somebody came up and just got him from the side, just smacked him and tackled him," Chris's mother, Alisa, said.

Chris fought back but soon found himself outnumbered.

"Then he got jumped by a couple more, and there were knives involved. And somewhere along the way, he got stabbed in the back," Alisa said.

When Ferguson tried to help, he was stabbed in the hand and thigh.

The men began to attack Chris again, knocking him to the ground and kicking him until a man driving by honked his horn. "The guy yelled out his window really, really loud and it scared them off," Alisa explained.

Chris was badly beaten and suffered a stab wound to the back. But both he and Ferguson were released to the mission home today.

Alisa doesn't know why the men attacked her son, but she thinks the motive may have been something other than religion. "They said they think they targeted Chris because he's such a big guy," she said.

... Ferguson had the tendons cut in his hand and needed surgery.

Ferguson's father, Great Falls attorney Cameron Ferguson, says his son plans on completing his mission.

Both missionaries were transported to a nearby hospital after being attacked by "at least three men," in a section of Sydney known as "Little Lebanon," according to Collinsworth's father, Jeff Collinsworth.

UPDATE: this page from the 15th quotes the mother being more specific:

Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Australia is said to be investigating the incident. An official motive has not been released, though Collinsworth's mother believes it was a combination of racial and religious reasons.

"Chris is in a real melting pot, there's guy from all over the world," said Alisa Collinsworth. "He said the guys who came after him were Lebanese Muslims and they were grown men... they were big guys."

UPDATE 2: Whilst speaking with some Mormons, I was told the stabbing took place in Auburn.

UPDATE 3: there is a Mormon account of the stabbing here.
Big, white, Christian, and American in south-west Sydney. There's four reasons to watch your back. This happened about last Tuesday the 14th. That's a week ago. Has any Australian media covered it? I couldn't find any. Is it on the NSW Police media site? I couldn't find it. What's going on? Just a flesh wound was it? Afraid of sparking another Cronulla? How many more stories haven't we been told about? And has someone told Collinsworth's mother to deflect any racial and religious motivation?

I'm not exactly sure where Little Lebanon is. I'd guess either Bankstown, Lakemba or Auburn. A message on facebook suggests Auburn. More on the story here.

Chris Collinsworth: A 6-foot-9 forward, Collinsworth is an all-around player whose versatility makes him a key contributor to the Cougars' up-tempo style of play. A skilled player at both the small and power forward positions, he is a talented scorer with good range and the ability to put the ball on the floor. He played in all 35 games for the Cougars as a true freshman in 2007-08, making six starts while ranking fourth on the team with 4.8 rebounds per game. He came to BYU out of Provo High School where he was named the 2007 Gatorade Utah Boys' Basketball Player of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to the state title.

Sorry mate, your near-death experience isn't newsworthy in Australia, apparently. Maybe if things were the other way around and you were Middle Eastern and attacked by a group of whites, maybe the media and police might have reported it.


Aurora said...

New South Wails, thanks for the link. I originally posted this story because an American I know heard from relatives back home that it had occurred. That contact then did the research and we found the story. The Australian media were very hush-hush about it as you point out. The name of the suburb has been scrupulously hidden. You can't get that information anywhere. As you point out, how many other stories are being hidden here?

New South Wails said...

No worries, Aurora. And if you hadn't had the personal connection, would any of us know about this story? Probably not. Something smells rotten in the police/media. I can only conclude the police now has a de-escalation policy: if an innocent white guy gets done by a Middle Easterner then "keep it quiet, we don't want another Cronulla".

Aurora said...

NSW, "Keep it quiet" seems to be common practice in the media when it comes to the stuff they don't want let out.
Keep up the good blogging. We need more of us in Oz!

Darrin Hodges said...

Just another day in multicultural wonderland.

Lisa said...

There is a first hand account of the stabbing here, with pictures:

Though bandaged and bruised, Elder Ferguson (middle) and Elder Collinsworth (left) survived a knife attack. Photo courtesy of President and Sister Scruggs (10-18-'08)

In a letter distributed to the families of the missionaries of the Australia Sydney North mission President Scruggs recounts the events of Tuesday, October 14:

At about 8:45 PM, Elders Collinsworth (out about 6 months from Mapleton, UT; BYU basketball player, 6′9″, 220 lbs) and Elder Ferguson (out about 18 months from Great Falls, Montana; BYU major in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, 6′1″ — very slender), were walking on the sidewalk about 1/2 a block from their apartment. The area, Auburn, is our most urban. The missionaries refer to it as “all manner of ‘ese: Chinese, Sudanese, Lebanese, etc.” The Elders saw two Lebanese men, over six feet tall with mullets, walking towards them. As they approached, the Elders stepped off the sidewalk to let them pass. As soon as the men were in striking distance, they struck. Elder Collinsworth grabbed his attacker and threw him down into the street and held him to the ground. Elder Ferguson exchanged punches with his attacker with enough ferocity that the coward fled. By this time a third attacker jumped on Elder Collinsworth pulling his shirt over his head. He was knocked to the ground and kicked. He said the last thing he saw as he hit the street was Elder Ferguson running towards him. Elder Ferguson knocked the third attacker off of Elder Collinsworth. The second attacker who had run away earlier returned to join the attack.

At this time a passing Sudanese motorist stopped and honked his horn, flashed his lights and yelled. The three attackers ran away. The motorist got out and checked on the Elders — now both on the street — and then went to get a nearby policeman. At this point the Elders realized they had both been stabbed. Elder Collinsworth, once in the back; Elder Ferguson, thrice — in the thigh, the upper left arm, and the left wrist. Blood was especially pouring out of the wrist wound, so Elder Collinsworth took off his tie and bound the wound. An ambulance quickly arrived and transported them to Westmead which is a very good hospital.

President Scruggs provided a witness of tender mercies experienced throughout the ordeal, which continued as the missionaries were attended to at the hospital. Upon the elders’ recovery, an impromptu, spiritually uplifting meeting was held at ground zero (see pictures above and below). To parents of all the missionaries in his care, he provided warm assurance that every precaution is and will be taken to look after their safety. Some perspective was added that bicycle accidents occur much more frequently to missionaries than physical attacks, which set up this gem from Elder Collinsworth: “When you get home and tell people you got hurt in a bike wreck, they think you’re a dork; but when you tell them you got jumped and stabbed, we’ll get some respect.”

Elder Ferguson (via his mother) gave me some details not found local news coverage:

I have 9 stitches in my hand, and about as many in my leg. My leg has an ugly L shaped cut. I think I passed out for a second when my head hit the ground and that is when one of the men stabbed me in the leg and jerked the knife. When I came to, I kicked the man in the shin, jumped up to my feet, and then tackled the other guy. I imagine I wouldn’t have done that if I knew I had been stabbed.

What the papers don’t tell you about the fight is that I was confronting the guy with the knife before he ran off. He had a scared look on his face and in reflection, it seems he was just about as surprised to be in the fight as we were. The third guy, we believe, was not connected to them and just wanted to join the fight.
… At one point for about 20 seconds [Elder Collinsworth] was being kicked really hard in the face repeatedly by two of them. He had no bruises on his face, no cuts, his teeth weren’t damaged and his nose wasn’t hurt. The only damage he received to his face was when he was punched before he was on the ground.

Elder Collinsworth and I were doing exactly what we were supposed to do. We pushed back the exchange a day because my regular companion was sick. We made the exchange at the only available time for the family which I wanted to visit. After meeting with the family, we took the most direct route home walking quickly, and we would have arrived home exactly at the right time to finish the night.

Missionaries in the Australia Sydney North Mission at attack site. Photo courtesy President and Sister Scruggs (10-18-'08)

On Wednesday the story of the missionary attack was reported by Deseret News and other local media (for example KSL and the Daily Herald). The interest created by the sports angle ensured that media outlets throughout the nation picked the story up. As a former member of FAIR, Elder David Ferguson may very well be to our apologetic network and reader audience what Elder Chris Collinsworth is to the BYU basketball team and fans. The initial reaction of FAIR volunteers to the news was perhaps best typified by Don Neighbor’s admission that he was “utterly speechless,” which is significant coming from one never at a loss for words as he eviscerates anti-Mormon arguments. While what follows below is FAIR’s tribute to Elder Ferguson, we recognize he and Elder Collinsworth are but fine examples of missionaries everywhere who sacrifice their time, talents, and sometimes health and safety to further the Lord’s work.

Several of us from FAIR contacted Margaret Ferguson to express condolences and let her know her son was in our prayers. I asked her how she found out about the attack and if there was any discussion of him coming home. She responded: “He called us from the hospital with his Mission President a few hours after the attack. He said, ‘I was in a bit of a scrap and I am in the hospital but I am O.K.’ Of course I started to cry and he told me to STOP crying. Now this sobered me up because I knew that he must not only be O.K. but back to his usual ‘not a big deal self.’ Then his Mission President got on the phone and described a little of what had happened. So we never felt like he needed to come home.”