SAN DIEGO, California – Timothy Caudill, who survived a vicious knife attack at San Diego Eagle, bristles when people call him a hero for saving his friend’s life that night.
The Marine Corps veteran said he instinctively stepped forward when the suspect unexpectedly pulled out a knife and lunged at the two men. In a flash, it was like Caudill was in hand-to-hand combat, only he didn't have a weapon to defend himself. Here he was, battling for his life in a darkened bar as other patrons froze in fear, fled for their safety or were paralyzed by shock.
He recalls pushing the suspect against the bar and down to the floor, but the attacker had the upper hand because he was wielding ing a sharp knife and stabbing Caudill in the upper chest, arm and leg. He could hear his friend screaming for help as the suspect stabbed him time and again, six times total. The bleeding was extensive, and the loss of blood was causing Caudill to lose focus.
"I knew my body was in shock,” he says. “I was getting dizzy.
“I was lying in a pool of my own blood. I saw death in the face right there.”
Caudill was rushed to the hospital, where he endured two hours of surgery to repair his wounds.
“Man, he filleted me in the arm and leg,” Caudill says in a husky voice, his eyes gazing into space as though he was back at the bar that Wednesday night of Feb. 25. He showed San Diego Gay & Lesbian News his wounds, all of which are still stapled shut as he continues to heal. He is still in pain and taking medication for that.
“There were three arteries close to three of those stab wounds,” he says. “Hitting any one of them would have killed me.”
One stab wound damaged a ligament in his right biceps and a more serious stab wound slashed two quads in his left knee that has left him with a limp and will require lots of time to recover from.
He wonders why some people ran out of the bar during the attack, instead of coming to his rescue. He thanks the people who were brave enough to pull the suspect off him and prevent perhaps fatal injuries. The suspect fled the bar but was arrested a short time later by San Diego police.
Dealing with the after-effects
The life-changing moment clearly has left Caudill in a fragile place. “I am dealing with the emotional after-effects,” he says, adding that he is eager to begin clinical therapy to deal what has happened to him. It has interrupted his life, including his college classes where he is studying business with an emphasis on economics as well as his quest to get into real estate. As a local activist with the Human Rights Campaign, he also had to cancel a prepaid trip to Washington DC to attend the HRC’s Spring Equality Convention, where he missed a speech by Vice President Joe Biden. He has also missed out on meetings of the San Diego Leadership Alliance, where he is a 2015 Fellow.
Caudill – who is affectionately called “Pickles” by his friends -- stresses that he is a determined man who will come out of this stronger, and will use this as motivation to advocate to the LGBT community about mental health issues and the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
“I don’t want it to be all about Pickles being stabbed,” he says earnestly. “I am a humble guy. I don’t like the attention."
Like it or not, he's the center of attention when he goes out on the town. "People point and stare at me," he says, adding that it makes him uncomfortable.
Advocating for change
His near-death experience has put him in the spotlight, and Caudill wants to use that platform to make a difference in our community.
“We have a lot of issues in our community that need to be addressed. … The biggest problem is that we lost a whole generation of gay men because of the AIDS crisis. We don’t have a lot of elder leaders to look up to. So many people of the younger generation has turned to alcohol and drugs because they don’t have good role models,” he said
As a Marine veteran who served from 2008 to 2011 as a gunsmith, he also saw first-hand the effects of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that eventually was lifted. Caudill said he stayed deep in the closet and pretended to be straight while he served his country in the Middle East, where he helped train members of Jordan’s military. He said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is slow to deal with issues involving the DADT policy that ruined so many lives and stained the agency.
Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, Caudill also knows what it is like to be bullied as a kid. He says he was more feminine in his mannerisms as a boy, and that classmates picked on him. His military experience helped toughened him up, he said.
Remembering that night
It is that military training that probably kicked in on Feb. 25 when Homer Rubio, 30, is accused of attacking Caudill with a knife.
Caudill and his friend, Michael Romano, remember seeing Rubio earlier in the day at the Eagle and had a brief conversation with him. Caudill and Romano were playing pool for a while, then left the bar. They returned later that night because Romano had left his bicycle there. When they walked into the bar, Rubio was there. It remains unclear to Caudill and Romano why Rubio had a beef with them, but they speculate that Rubio felt slighted because they did not want to have anything to do with him because of the way he was acting toward them.
At one point, Caudill recalls Rubio pointing to a scar on his left forearm where he had surgery to remove a skin cancer and commented that Caudill probably deserved to be stabbed in the arm. Later, Caudill's other arm would be stabbed.
Caudill says there is surveillance tape of the stabbing incident, but he has not seen it and he’s not sure he wants to view the violent images. He says he is still too traumatized to put himself through that.
In the aftermath, Caudill says he is saddened that some of his so-called friends and his exes failed to contact him after he nearly lost his life. But the community has totally rallied around him.
“I am overwhelmed at how much support I have gotten from our community,” he says. “Just talking about it brings tears to my eyes.”
He is working with the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to build the case against the suspect, who has been arrested at least three times in Arizona. SDGLN has been unable to confirm whether those cases have been adjudicated.
According to the San Diego Sheriff's Department website, reviewed on Tuesday morning, 30-year-old Homer Rubio has been transferred to the maximum security George F. Bailey Detention Facility near Otay Mesa west of Brown Field. Rubio remains held on $100,000 bail and is facing three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.
SDGLN has fielded a number of requests from readers about whether Rubio, who is a native of Honduras, is in the custody of the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility that shares the same physical address as the George F. Bailey Detention Facility. Tuesday morning, a spokeswoman for ICE emailed SDGLN and verified that Rubio is not in their custody.
Rubio's next court date is set for March 16 in downtown San Diego.
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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at email@example.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.