A former reporter who worked for both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal said this week that he expected to be blind in one eye after being badly beaten in a Walmart parking lot.
Les Gapay, 70, told the Missoulian that he had recently left his Section 8 housing in California to move back to Montana, but he was forced to live out of his truck while he was waiting for a senior apartment to open up.
When Gapay arrived in Billings on Sunday night, he said it was too late to find a campsite, so he decided to spend the night at the Mullan Road Super Walmart. After using the bathroom inside the store, two men approached him.
“These two guys came up to me and were obviously drunk,” he recalled. “They started saying they wanted to shake hands with me.”
He told the men that he did not want to shake hands, then he said that one of the men “slugged me right in the chest.” As Gapay tried to call police, the man continued to hit him. He said that a third man arrived and began punching him in the eye.
He remembered being on the ground bleeding, and asking Walmart shoppers to come to his aid. He told the paper that two people walked by without helping.
Eventually, a couple did stop to help, and police responded after additional 911 calls.
According to Gapay, the surgeon “pushed everything back in his eyeball” on Monday. But he only has a 5 percent chance of ever seeing out of that eye again.
He was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, and planned to pay for one night in a hotel before living out of his truck again.
In 2003, Gapay was 59 when told the Los Angeles Times that he had become homeless after his long career as a journalist.
“I’m at the bottom,” he said at the time. “I think that’s going to change. I don’t expect to be in this situation by the winter.”