Thursday, May 24, 2018
Public safety

Gaither High School student arrested in December baseball bat attack on two Pasco teens

LAND O'LAKES — An 18-year-old Gaither High School student has been arrested in connection with a baseball bat attack a few months ago on two Pasco teens, including a Sunlake High student who needed surgery for his injuries.

Dong Hoon Chung, known to friends as Eric, faces two counts of aggravated battery, according to a warrant. Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrested him at school Tuesday. Bail was set at $50,000.

Kathleen Perez, whose 17-year-old son Matthew Perez required reconstructive surgery after the Dec. 6 attack, said she was relieved an arrest had been made.

"It's good to hear," she said.

A Pasco County Sheriff's Office report, which identified Matthew Perez only by his initials, said he and 19-year-old Tiffany Kephart were in a vacant lot behind the Land O'Lakes Library when Chung approached and kicked Matthew in the face "multiple times."

The blows crushed Matthew's orbital bone. The report says Chung attacked Kephart with a bat, hitting her in the head and left forearm. The attack broke her arm in four places and caused a possible fracture to her left cheek.

Both victims identified Chung in photo lineups during separate interviews, the report said.

Matthew, a Sunlake High School junior, gave his account of the night's events to the Tampa Bay Times in January. He said two middle-school girls had feuded that day through text messages and decided to meet behind the library to settle their differences. Matt and Kephart accompanied one of the girls, a 13-year-old he described as being "like a little sister," to make sure nothing got out of hand, despite warnings from his mother and grandmother not to go.

But the other girl brought a group of young men. One of them brought a bat. He told the Times he was also beaten with a bat.

Matt, who risked losing his sight in the left eye as a result of the incident, had surgery last month, his mother said. Surgeons replaced part of the broken cheekbone with titanium. He plans to have another surgery this summer to repair his broken nose.

"It was a lot worse than they thought," his mother said.

Still, Matt, who is photo editor of the school yearbook, a member of the swim team and prom committee, remains active. Recently he was in the school musical, West Side Story.

He played one of the gang members.

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