Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Student survives beating

By Obed Manuel

Opinion & Copy Editor

Derek Madrigal sits shirtless at his desk playing Star Craft 2 in his parents’ North Dallas home. The brawny, muscular physique the Brookhaven College student donned just a month ago is no longer visible. His right eye has burst blood vessels, and a long, not-yet-healed scar marks the right side of his upper back. The scar is a remnant of two surgeries doctors in Harlingen, Texas, had to perform to reestablish the negative pressure in his collapsed lung.

At a table five feet away, Derek’s father Frank Madrigal sits, quietly observing his son.

Derek did not fall asleep until 6 a.m. that day because of excruciating pain in his left arm. Fortunately, Derek said, he does not have any trouble walking when he wakes up. “I went from 190 to 160,” Derek said. “Something ate up all my muscles.”

“My legs are fine,” Derek said. “They just got my upper body.”

By “they,” Derek means the 10 men who allegedly physically assaulted him with their fists and travel coolers. Derek was stabbed repeatedly March 17 on Coca-Cola Beach in South Padre Island.

On the day of the assault, Derek and seven students – a mix of close friends and new friends – headed to Isla Grand Beach Resort, where they relaxed by the pool and ate breakfast.

Madrigal celebrated his birthday three days earlier, March 14. “I was finally 21,” Derek said.

They walked to Coca-Cola Beach to a party hosted by the Isla Grand around 3 or 4 p.m.

The seven searched for the party tent, but had some difficulty finding it.

“I decided to go off on my own because [the group] was slowing me down,” Derek said. “I ended up finding [the tent] way before they did.”

It was there Derek ran into Gaby, a woman he met while on the trip.

Derek said he remembers seeing a group of men close to the tent he was in. The group of men complained to Derek’s group that someone kicked sand into their beer. One of the alleged suspects then verbally abused Gaby.

Derek stepped in.

“I guess one of them, on their way to hit Derek in the face, hit me in the face, and that’s kind of when it all broke out,” Gaby, who wished to only be identified by first name, said in an interview with CBS News 11.

Derek struck one of the men and wrestled him to the ground. Derek said he remembers being lifted off the ground but does not remember the rest of the attack.

A video posted on two days after the attack showed a group of men beating a bloodied Derek.

Derek remembers being placed into an ambulance and receiving emergency care.

Later, Derek was airlifted to Valley Baptist Medical Care Center where he underwent two surgical procedures to repair his lung. He was released 10 days later.
According to the incident report from the South Padre Island Police Department, Michael Rangel, one of the alleged suspects, was the only suspect arrested March 17. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and engaging in organized criminal activity.

Three weeks have passed since the attack, and Derek is home trying to recover. Doctors told Derek it would be about a full month until he would start feeling normal again.

“What I base [my recovery] on – me being normal – is lifting heavy weight,” Derek said. “But that’s me being active – that’s me being normal and going back to be the same.”

Frank interjected, “If he could play basketball or if he could run, but he can’t run – he can barely walk.”

Tim Howell, a public relations representative of the City of South Padre, issued a press release April 4 with a statement from Police Chief Randy Smith, confirming nine additional arrests in the case. “Criminal activity will not be tolerated and I have full confidence in my staff’s ability to protect both our residents and visitors,” Smith said.

Those arrested were Gilbert Balderas, Thomas Wayne Garcia, Eric John Gomez, Omar Ibarra Guerrero, Jaime Alvarez Matos, Emilio Jacob Ruvalcaba, Carlos Saenz III, Alfredo Valdez and Michael Angelo Villarreal. Each suspect was charged with aggravated assault and engaging in organized criminal activity. The arrests were made in San Antonio.

“I’m kind of glad they got them,” Derek said. “The streets of San Antonio are cleaner. They deserve whatever they get.”

Derek said he is on track to return to school in Fall 2012. “I do plan on going back and [getting] my degree in kinesiology,” Derek said. “It puts me in a drive to pass my classes because I could have died – I could [have not] had this chance. It could have been taken away from me.”

Despite the pending investigation, recovery and hospital bills, Derek said he has to stay positive and find the silver lining of the situation.

“Check it out,” he said.

Derek throws on a charcoal gray, Gold’s Gym brand T-shirt, and points to the printed white and yellow text across the back with his thumbs. It reads: “Stronger than yesterday.”

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