When Susan Lynette Hughes felt a sting on her buttocks while she stood near East 11th and Mill July 10, at first she thought it was a bee sting. Then the men she was talking to started feeling stings, and she realized they were being shot with BBs.
Hughes, who is unhoused, says she had heard of college students shooting homeless people with BB guns, but she and the men standing with her were still shocked and angry. The men and the shooter exchanged shouts, and Hughes says she wanted to prevent the situation from escalating.
“I said, ‘Let’s not all go to jail. Why don’t we call the police — because this is really breaking the law — and get it handled?’” Hughes recalls.
Hughes called the police, who responded and cited the shooter, UO student Ryan Bax, who received 12 days of road crew and a year of probation. Hughes’ sister, Amber Jade, says she thinks Hughes’ decision to call the police was protective of both the homeless and the shooter. “That could be the very thing that could take this guy from where he was going to go in five years — just a real pivot point,” Jade says.
Hughes says she was very satisfied with the police response to the incident. “The other people were so impressed with how the police handled it that it opened up a lot of doors for police communication with the homeless,” she says.
Hughes says there’s no good reason the shooting needed to happen. “It’s almost like in all societies you have to have a hate and a worship,” she says, and the homeless are what some people hate.
Jade says she thinks that a contributing factor is that people who are homeless are only seen as homeless instead of homeless plus all the other things they are. She ticks off all the things her sister does that are more important than where she sleeps: Hughes trains animals; she taught herself intricate details about exotic plants from a book; she’s competed in track and danced ballet; she humanely traps feral cats to have them spayed, then makes sure they’re fed for years.
She says that her petite sister pushes a heavy cart around Eugene, filling it with items she knows others need. “Susan has always done that. You can see the bags that she’s got. Some of them go in White Bird — clothes to go in the box. Some of them are for somebody who said they needed or liked a blue sweatshirt and she’s found one. All these bags around here contain things mostly marked for people. She’s always very generous.”
Hughes says she still feels pretty safe in the campus area, and that people can get hurt even behind locked doors with weapons. “So having the faith and believing in a higher being, being spiritual and smiling are a lot of the weapons I carry,” she says. “It helps. And when things aren’t right, somebody has to step forward.”