Tragedy in New York hits home

By Rachel Kytonen

Dale Shortell had been texting his son Barie around 9 p.m. on Feb. 22. Barie had just gotten off the subway and was walking the few blocks home to his apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Barie told his father he would be home soon, and would text him again later. Tragically, the text never came.

Around 11 p.m., Dale received a phone call from his daughter, telling him that something had happened to Barie, and he had been rushed to Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn.

Barie Shortell, after his surgery.

Barie, a 1999 graduate of Cambridge-Isanti High School, was brutally attacked by a group of six to seven teenagers as he walked home Feb. 22. The teenagers pounded Barie’s head into a concrete barrier or brick wall, until he lost consciousness. A young woman happened to be in the area, and saw Barie struggling to get to his feet. She ran to help him, and sensed the teenagers were coming back. She was able to drag Barie about a block into a nearby music store, and got him away from his attackers.

The next morning, Dale was on a flight to Brooklyn.

“When I got to the hospital, Barie was in the intensive care unit,” Dale said last week. “It was shocking to see him. He was breathing on his own, and his eyes were open, but was pretty sedated. Before I arrived at the hospital I knew he had been attacked, but I had no idea the extent of the injuries. Had it not been for the courage of that young woman, Barie likely would have been killed.”

Barie underwent nearly 10 hours of surgery to re-construct portions of his face.

He had titanium plates put in place from just below the eyes, down through his upper jaw, and his lower jaw was pinned and banded shut to hold things in place. His nose was bridged and pinned through on both sides. The fractures to his eye sockets were left at the present time to see if they would heal on their own, as doctors feared he would lose his sight if they attempted to operate in the area.

A benefit account has been set up at Minnco Credit Union in Isanti, as Barie doesn’t have health insurance. Donations to the account will be used to assist with Barie’s hospital bills, after care such as physical therapy, legal fees and other expenses related to the crime.

Dale explained Barie has lived in New York for approximately five to six years. He recently moved back two years ago, and during his entire time in New York, nothing bad had ever happened to him.

Barie Shortell, a 1999 graduate of Cambridge-Isanti High School, was brutally attacked while walking home from work Feb. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Barie had just moved to a new neighborhood in Brooklyn about a month ago. While in New York, Dale learned Barie was the fourth victim of this type of crime in his neighborhood in the last six months.

“We really won’t know why this happened until the people are caught,” Dale said. “Barie wasn’t robbed, but a lot of his belongings were destroyed during the attack. This was a very hateful crime.”

Since Barie was released from the hospital, he has been staying with family friends in New York who are making sure he’s getting his medications, and getting to his doctor appointments.

“Barie is keeping his spirits up, and he continues to improve,” Dale said. “He has a lot of friends out there. He remains very upbeat and is encouraged by the number of people offering support. I am just relieved and thanking God he is going to be okay.”

Barie works for a company in New York that specializes in lamp and lighting fixture restoration from pieces found in churches and synagogues. Dale said his son has always been interested in the arts, and studied at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in New York. He has always worked hard to further his education. He has a bachelor’s degree, and is working toward finishing his master’s degree.

“I’ve always worried about Barie living in New York,” Dale said. “I’ve been there a few times to visit, and I’ve seen a side of New York you just don’t see while out there sight-seeing.”

Dale has tried to remain calm, despite the fact this crime has turned the family’s life upside down.

“I try to handle tragedies straight-forward and calmly, but am I angry this happened to my son, yes,” Dale said. “When I first learned all the details about the attack, my first thought was, we’re lucky he wasn’t killed. But it’s really amazing what doctors can do.”

Dale said while in New York, he and Barie returned to the crime scene. When Barie has gone back to the scene, he has been surrounded by police. Dale said while his son doesn’t remember anything after hitting the ground, he has been having more flashbacks of what happened that fateful evening.

Dale said he and Barie’s mother, Jeanne Olson, are just trying to remain strong for their son.

“It was difficult to go out there and see what had happened to my son,” Dale said. “It’s a very helpless feeling, and there’s not a lot you can do. But we are doing what we can do to encourage him, and keep his spirits up.”

Dale mentioned Barie and the family are also working closely with The New York Anti-Violence Project, as well as a number of political figures to raise further awareness of hate crimes and to encourage public advocacy for a safer New York City for everyone.

“Barie is very much into the arts, and an extremely intelligent man,” Dale said. “He’s very outgoing, and has accomplished a lot of things in life. He’s very much grateful to everyone for their prayers, and words of encouragement.”

Dale and his family have lived in the area for a long time, and he is a former mayor of the city of Isanti. He recently moved back to Isanti three years ago, and works for a company in Isanti.

Barie will be undergoing more surgeries in the future. A Web site has been set up for Barie, Donations can be sent to the Barie Shortell Benefit Account, Minnco Credit Union, 311 Credit Union Drive, Isanti, MN 55040. Donations can also be made through the Web site.