UPDATE: Springfield police say a man who was attacked after being mistaken as a gang member was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, not a red Portland Trail Blazers jersey as initially believed.
Lt. Scott McKee said Friday that investigators have clarified it was a LeBron James jersey.
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A man was assaulted in a Springfield park last month simply because of the color of shirt he was wearing.
A man and his girlfriend were walking through Gamebird Park around midnight on July 31. Police said three men walked up to the couple and asked the man if he was in a gang because he was wearing a red Trail Blazers jersey. He said no, but the three men did not believe him and began to assault him. He was hospitalized with serious injuries, like broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Detective David Burroughs with the Eugene Police Department said this is a common thing for gang members to do.
“A lot of these gang members are wearing sports apparel to indicate they're part of a certain gang set,” Burroughs said.
Burroughs said Trail Blazers jerseys are fairly common in gang use because of the red color and the "B" used for “Bloods.” He said it's important to pay attention to what colors and letters we might be wearing, especially if we're in an area that gang members might frequent.
Neighbors in the area said this comes as a shock to them and they never experience gang activity in this area. One neighbor, Martin Thiele, said he thinks the community needs to address the root of the issue. He said gangs are dangerous because they can entice kids who want to fit in.
“That just attracts them to emulate the same kind of behaviors so they feel like they have strength and cohesion amongst themselves,” Thiele said.
Police said there’s currently about 1,500 gang members in the Lane County area, and they don't expect this number to decrease any time soon. They said with the staffing troubles they're currently having, they've had to cut both their narcotics and gang special teams, which makes Lane County a more desirable place for gangs to be.
“Since we have neither, it definitely increases the amount of gang members that want to come to our community,” Burroughs said.
Two of the men involved were arrested and then released for the time being. Police said they still need your help finding the third man involved. They said he fled the scene when they arrived, and they weren't able to track him.