USA

21-year-old describes being stabbed while trying to stop looting in Naperville. ‘I really don’t like where this world is going to. It’s going to a dark, evil place.’

Jai Taylor, who grew up in Naperville, sits alone in a room at Edward Hospital in Naperville on Wednesday, thankful he's alive after he was stabbed Monday while defending a teenager and urging vandals to stop the violence.

Jai Taylor, who grew up in Naperville, sits alone in a room at Edward Hospital in Naperville on Wednesday, thankful he's alive after he was stabbed Monday while defending a teenager and urging vandals to stop the violence. (Jai Taylor)

Jai Taylor held his hand over his gut as he sprinted in search of any police officer who might help save his life.

"I ran down the street to Starbucks with my intestines in my hand,” Taylor said.

Taylor, who grew up in Naperville, recounted the harrowing events from his room at Edward Hospital in a phone interview with the Naperville Sun this week. Police say witness statements and evidence appear to corroborate Taylor’s story.

Taylor, a 2016 graduate of Naperville North High School, had been visiting his parents’ home in Naperville Monday and as he left to go home to Oswego he heard the protests were continuing.

Curious, he said he parked in the lot near Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House and joined business owners watching the protesters from the sidewalk.

“Then things started popping off,” Taylor said.

Peaceful protests Monday afternoon and evening in the central business district turned violent after the sun went down. People broke storefront windows, looted shops, and threw water bottles and at least one firework at police.

Taylor said he walked through the downtown, observing the vandalism. In the street near the Apple store, he said a man in his 20s was hassling and urging a teenager to vandalize businesses.

Angered by what he saw, Taylor said he went up and pushed the man. “You’re supposed to be setting an example because you’re older,” Taylor said he told the man.

“Then someone grabs me by my shoulder and sticks something in my belly,” Taylor said.

“I looked at him and said, like, ‘You stabbed me,’" and ran toward Naperville police.

Taylor, who is black, said police initially suspected he injured himself breaking windows or coming out a building after looting it, but he kept pleading that he was innocent.

“I begged the officers; I begged the cops not to kill me, not to let me die,” Taylor said.

Officers treated his wound, and an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later, Taylor estimated.

“Police said I was unlawfully protesting, which I don’t understand,” he said. “I understand looting is definitely unlawful. Running in vandalizing is unlawful.”

Taylor wants justice for what happened to him, and he said he’s been communicating with police about his assailant.

Naperville police Cmdr. Mike Son said police continue to investigate.

Emily Staples, of Aurora, said she and her sisters were standing near Anderson’s Bookshop and saw Taylor yelling at people to stop looting and repeating, “It’s about peace; this isn’t what it’s about.”

Then a man produced a blade and stabbed Taylor once and immediately ran away, she said. “It happened literally in a split second,” Staples said.

Staples said she and her sisters ran to alert officers who were walking in the breezeway adjacent to the Apple store. “Then we called 911 just to ensure that there was service coming,” Staples said.

The sisters attended the Aurora protests Sunday night that ended in shattered windows, looting and fire. “It got peaceful to bad in like zero to 60, so we kind of wanted to come here (to Naperville) and prevent that,” Staples said.

Taylor’s mother, Janet Taylor, said she’s not surprised her son would defend a kid who was being bullied.

“We’ve raised our children to do good,” she said. “He was responding the way he was taught.”

“I was extremely shocked. Not in Naperville, not here,” she said. “We have lived in Naperville for 20 years, and Naperville had been pretty safe.”

Because he recently lost his job as a sound engineer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor said he has no insurance to help defray the costs of his hospital bills. He said doctors estimate he could be hospitalized for a week.

In response, Cate Humbert, of Naperville, set up a GoFundMe account for Taylor that raised more than $17,000 in one day.

“Jai has been a friend, neighbor and classmate of mine since kindergarten, and it was devastating to hear that he was attacked for trying to keep the peace,” Humbert said.

Taylor said he’s had a lot of time to reflect on what occurred Monday in the town where he grew up.

“Watching that whole thing was very heartbreaking, very ugly,” Taylor said. “I felt like the cops were down there to do nothing. The people who were protesting weren’t protesting lawfully. Who was even leading protest?

“A lot of people are purging and not taking real life into consideration right now. I feel like people are overrun by fear,” Taylor said. “I really don’t like where this world is going to. It’s going to a dark, evil place.”

Taylor said as he was bleeding on the ground in front of Starbucks, he looked up and prayed.

“God wanted me to live,” he said, adding that the person who stabbed him somehow missed damaging any vital organs

“If he moved that blade anywhere else and cut an intestine, I would have had internal bleeding,” Taylor said. “God is good. God is good.”

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