3 U-M students, including one with bone cancer, assaulted on South University

Saturday, December 15, 2018 - 3:50pm

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Sarah Kunkel/Daily

Three University of Michigan students were attacked early Friday morning on South University Avenue. One of the them was Information junior Serena Sabuda. Sabuda is currently being treated for osteosarcoma, a form of intrusive bone cancer, at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, and had undergone lung surgery just three weeks earlier. Sabuda was walking with two of her housemates to celebrate the surgery’s success when a group of women and men aggressively confronted them.

“After I was diagnosed with bone cancer, I barely ever go out, just because I have a lot on my mind, and I’m just kind of scared to go out.” Sabuda said.  

In an interview with ClickOnDetroit, Lexi Berry, who was with Sabuda at the time of the incident, explained how the perpetrators initially asked Sabuda and her friends for some of their pizza. However, when the women refused, the group became increasingly aggressive and threatened to harm them as they walked away.

“We started to walk away and they said, ‘Don’t turn away, I can get the back of your legs if I want,’” Berry said.

Due to the cancer, Sabuda had to have a portion of her thighbone surgically removed and an injury of any kind would have been dangerous for her health. With this in mind, the students proceeded to tell the group about Sabuda’s cancer with hopes they would back down. However, the aggressors did not stop.

“I told them, ‘Don’t even joke about that, because if you do that, I’m probably going to get my leg amputated if any injury occurs to my prosthetic leg,’” Sabuda said. “I told her that whole story about how I just beat cancer — well, I just had my surgery, I didn’t really beat it — but I thought that was the end of it. How could you continue to be aggressive toward someone who is going through this? Then just punched me out of nowhere.”

One of Sabuda's friends, LSA Senior Cassie Jordan, who was also attacked during the incident said she suffered injuries as a result of the altercation, likely sustaining a concussion.

"On top of punching my friend, Lexi, in the head, punching Serena in the nose and sending her to the ER in an ambulance, they ripped out almost a third of my hair (I had to empty my hair brush four times the next morning while brushing my hair from how much they ripped out), and hit me repeatedly on the head even though i was screaming at them to stop and covering my face as best I could for protection," Jordan wrote in a text interview.

Sabuda was uncertain about the nature of the attack, but she does feel it may have some racial motivation.

“At some point in the fight I heard someone yell — well, I had told her I was half-Asian — and at some point someone in the group yelled a racist Asian slur.”

Sabuda and her friends ran into Pinball Pete’s arcade to find help, but the group followed them and continued their assault.

“The employee just stood there and watched and the girls followed us into there, and I just retreated into a corner and was just sobbing,” Sabuda said. “My friend was screaming, ‘Stop,’ and my other friend was blocking the entrance to where I was because I can’t really defend myself.”

Sabuda says the girls called the police from inside Pinball Pete’s while they watched their aggressors run away “laughing and high-fiving each other.” After the incident, Sabuda was surprised the University had not issued a crime report and expressed the importance of remaining vigilant when walking late at night.

“I was really surprised that the University didn’t send out a crime report that night,” Sabuda said. “This is a really important thing that happened. Like, girls are constantly walking home, sometimes by themselves. I don’t think these people were students here … I just think it’s really important for students to be on the lookout for any aggressors.”

Jordan said the incident has changed her perspective on the level of safety in Ann Arbor.

"Never in my life have I thought of Ann Arbor as anything but safe and fun," Jordan wrote. "After last Thursday, I'll never feel fully safe walking home, even if i'm only three or so blocks from home like I was last night."

The Daily reached out to the Ann Arbor Police Department, but police said they did not have any information to release. Sabuda said they would have a detective contact her, but she has not yet received a call. According to ClickOnDetroit, they have not yet identified the people responsible for the attack and the investigation is ongoing. 

This is a developing story. Please check back at michigandaily.com for more information.