“I just wanted to survive”: the most popular article in the world

Western journalists made a rating of the best articles 2017. One of the most readable in the world became the stuff of American holding company ESPN, who covers sports events. In the story with the headline “I just wanted to survive” – the story of the kidnapping and torture of a student-player. 40 hours, his friend and tormented by the brutal gang — shot, stabbed, tortured with iron, hammered in the head with glass and sexually humiliated.

Why read this article so many people? Perhaps because her main message: all could have been prevented if the authorities are not blind to the dealings of the bad guys because they were good players. The culprit of the incident and chief tormentor — the blacks, the victim was a wealthy white boy. But the conflict “is not stopped in time, although he knew,” alas, very typical, regardless of races and States.

We made a translation of the ESPN publication authored by Tisha Thompson and Andy Lockett.

Nico Kallias watched his blood swirl away in the shower. It was a lot. It flowed out of my head. Of both feet. Where They cut the skin between the fingers, gaping wounds.

The blood was the iron which was standing at the sink. He didn’t know where They put gardening shears; was just glad that They came. He still could discern a roll of Scotch tape, covered in bloody fingerprints that They left when they bound his hands and feet before beating him with heavy metal fittings and pipes and beaten again and again.

His khaki pants and torn t-shirt University of Rochester lay crumpled in the corner, blue and yellow colors of his College became brown when the blood on the cloth has started to oxidize.

Kollias wanted to remove his knee brace worn after surgery because of a recent football injury… But was afraid that if I pull out, the leg will simply fall off. His hip was shattered – it felt like it exploded when They fired , and he tried to run.

And he was not aware of what They shot in the calf of the other leg. It just did not feel and could not see how it should be – the eye was filled with blood, flowed from his scalp, which They punched a long fluorescent lamp.

After the shot the blood wouldn’t stop — then They stopped and threw him in the shower.

He had heard these people in the next room – they were laughing, Smoking herb, so they may not have removed their terrible plastic masks.

But who are They? Callias didn’t know that. He saw only their eyes through the cracks in the masks at the time of the attack. Even mouths, They were screaming something about revenge, not seen.

Sitting on a folding chair that They put in a dirty shower, Kollias, undergraduate of the University of Rochester (height 184 cm, weight 97 kg, defender of the football team), realizes he is, where is, who are these people and what he should do. All he knew shot him and hit him more than three hours.

Sitting in the shower watching blood flowing into the drain, Kollias and had no idea that it was all to do with his football team. And that incident was only the beginning of his torment.


Nico Kollias.

* * *

When Nicolas Kollias came to the campus three years earlier, in 2012, he had two passions: piano and football. University of Rochester were perfect for that, and for another. Football third division team wanted him to protect, more than that – he was accepted in the famous Ilmensky music school. “I was so happy!” – he recalls.

A native of Chicago, Kollias played mostly for the Yellowjackets, a mediocre team, gaining around 500 points. But when he was on the Junior course, the school has recruited Isaiah Smith, a talented midfielder from the Bronx. “He had power, had speed and he just changed the game for our team,” says Kollias. Smith grew up in difficult conditions, the housing situation was unstable, but became a good student, receiving in three seasons the title of best player. In his first year in Rochester, the team finished with a score of 5-4, but Smith made 80 interceptions of the ball. “He really was our star of the defense,” says Kollias.

Off the field, however, Kollias avoided Smith. He recalls that he didn’t like how Smith boasted that can get marijuana for students. He had the reputation of a man who wants to be a drug dealer on campus,” says Kollias. “He was proud of it more than their sporting successes, and it shocked me”.

Another former player from Rochester, said the program Outside the Lines that he just bought a few of Smith’s marijuana. Speaking on condition of anonymity (because buying drugs, he broke the law), this ex-player says that Smith told him: he “has connections in new York,” he can “get everything I need. And how much”. The player said that Smith received a reputation for Stripping students. “I’ve heard stories that he could just take the money and give nothing in return. But he was one of the best football players, and were afraid of him”.

The chief of police of Rochester Michael Ciminelli confirms that Smith “was involved in distributing drugs.” But neither the players Rochester coach Scott Greene, nor the school administration is not given a review for this reason. Smith also refused to answer; his counsel stated that his client is “not a drug dealer”.

Kollias said that in his opinion, the coaches of Rochester knew that Smith was involved in drugs, but looked at it through his fingers. While other players for violations of waited serious consequences. “Things like driving drunk – he explains. When this happens, usually the players were kicked off the team.”

“The best athletes, definitely, was on a leash longer, said another player. Smith was one of the best in the team. And it was not going to be there to exclude”.

Day 28 of November 2015, two weeks after the final season game Yellowjackets, surveillance cameras recorded Smith, running across the pedestrian bridge that connects the campus with Brooks crossing, with the University dormitory. The camera showed a meeting of Smith with three people near this building.

After a brief conversation the trio went to a nearby structure. And at 2:45 cameras filmed Smith at the entrance to the hostel — he was talking animatedly on the mobile phone. Smith waved to the trio, drawing their attention to the black sedan entered the Parking lot. From the car came four young men. According to prosecutors, they had 4 pounds (about 2 kilos) of marijuana.

Police said that Smith held these four with “grass” in the building. Smith himself did not live in it, but I followed him inside the well: two members of the football team lived in an apartment on the seventh floor.

They, according to prosecutors, went home for Thanksgiving, but Smith was aware that the spare key from the apartment lies in a box with a fire extinguisher. Smith opened the door to let four people they thought for the transaction. But the Trinity, which was waving Smith broke into the apartment, according to police, they splashed into drug suppliers of pepper gas and struck them on the head with a hammer, taking 4 pounds of marijuana.

For the mind three of the attackers – they remained unknown – hit and Smith, but only slightly, the hammer is not used. On recordings from surveillance cameras can be seen like a broken hammer men out of the building, wrapped head shirts to stop the bleeding. Posing as the victim, but not actually injured, Smith went with the wounded to the hospital.

The doctors informed the police, she was sent to the hospital officer. When the police began to interrogate Smith, his “legend” quickly fell apart. Smith admitted that he broke into someone else’s apartment and “allowed to go in there the guys.” The police have gathered enough evidence to charge Smith with burglary, robbery and assault.

Smith was arrested, but in prison he did not stay long. Assistant football coach Rochester Dan Kyle signed a check for $15,000 in as collateral to release.

When Callias came to the campus after Thanksgiving, he did not know that Smith was arrested. Football season by the time ended, Smith returned from detention, even when classes began.

Kollias considered one of the players who lived in the ill-fated apartment, one of his closest friends on the team. He said, Kollias a secret: in his apartment happened “incident,” but he “doesn’t know exactly what it was.” The guy told friends that he found on entering the apartment the yellow police tape. And inside was filled with furniture and blood on the walls.

While Kollias and his friends wondered what had happened, about 5 miles from them 19-year-old Elliott Rivera hatched their plans. He learned that his cousin was attacked with a hammer during a failed attempt to “push” drugs. Coming to his friend Lidell the Strickland river has shared few details that he knew all the attackers were African American, they came in a student apartment on the seventh floor, and in this story attended a football player from the University of Rochester.

Rivera vowed revenge.

* * *

According to Kollias, the evening of 4 December 2015 seemed like a typical Friday night. He and his teammate, just one of those who lived on the seventh floor, was stuck in the Dorm. Played “piss-up”, says Kollias, when his companion said, “There are a couple of girls, they want to meet us”.

A friend of Callias and a girl named Samantha Hughes corresponded via Text and agreed to meet at about midnight. The week before Samantha “friended” on Facebook both players from the seventh floor of the hostel. Her avatar was a photo of a 19-year-old girl with long eyelashes, large earrings-rings and tattoos on both shoulders.

“Each type says: “let’s hit girls,” says Kollias. – I thought it was normal.”

Hughes was seated in the blue “Dodge” with a friend, 20-year-old Leah Dzhilotti. Dzhilotti was under cocaine, and Hughes – smoked weed and drank brandy. When Kallias and his companion sat on the back seat, Samantha handed them a bottle of booze, the car drove off.

“I noticed that the area outside the window starts some bad,” recalls Kollias. And it’s started to get nervous”. But after a few minutes they turned to the entrance two-story house. Girls held players through the side door. “I remember that it smelled like urine and faeces – and it was absolutely disgusting, says Kollias. I sat down on the leather sofa and the next thing I saw was 5-10 people in masks who jumped out at us with bats, pipes, knives and “guns”.


House, where there were torture

The lights went out and Kollias rushed to the door. In the middle of the room he felt that his left leg doesn’t listen. “I realized that the femur was broken in half, and that is the leg where I wore the brace. I somehow on one foot, hobbled to the door and the only thing I remember – saw the two girls holding the door closed”.

As it turned out, Hughes was the girlfriend Rivera, the guy who promised to avenge his brother. SMS to each Kollias on her behalf with the offer of a meeting was actually sent Rivera.

Kollias says: men in masks “dragged us into the bathroom, stretched along the wall and tied together with duct tape hands and feet. They emptied our pockets – cell phones, wallets, car keys…”


A frame of video from a mobile phone

The attackers filmed on a mobile phone. In the first frame is visible a thin man in a red sweater and a plastic mask colors of the American flag. The prosecution alleges that it was Rivera. In the video, Rivera is depicted with the sawed-off rifle 22 caliber, he stands next to the lying face down in a pool of blood with a friend of Collias.

Near revere, a male with dreadlocks, camouflage and black-and-white mask in the shape of a skull. The Prosecutor’s office claims that this is Liddell Strickland. He had not a relative of anyone of the victims of the attack with the hammer just helped the River to take revenge. Strickland was holding the orange garden shears…

The camera shows lying on the bathroom floor of Collias. His trousers entirely covered with blood from gunshot wounds in the legs. Kollias begs: “Please, I did nothing!” and gets his head blow fluorescent lamp…


A frame of video from a mobile phone

This video lasts only 30 seconds. Players, according to prosecutors, tortured physically, sexually and psychologically at least 40 hours…

About three hours after the attack of Collies thrown in a shower: “I was completely naked and just sat on the chair, I was dripping with blood. I was all covered with it”.

The attackers knew that Kallias was not involved in the robbery of drug dealers, but they were in his special plan. And while this plan meant that he was still alive.

Kollias, given a crutch and he was able to decarbonise to blue inflatable mattress, which was thrown a dirty sleeping bag. “They started to feed us, gave us to eat and drink”, even given a drug” (in the opinion of Callias, it was aspirin). From the pain it didn’t help: “I forced myself not to give up and not to close my eyes because I didn’t want to die.”

* * *

When Kallias and his friend did not return home in the morning, the neighbours reported the disappearance guys. The police took these reports seriously, because both players are usually quick to respond to Texts and calls. The police are especially worried that their phones were disconnected and not working and the app, allowing the phone to track the location owner.

The police immediately linked the drug theft Smith and the disappearance of the two boys. Instead of the police, the first important “key” to the case found the player of the team who lived in that apartment on the 7th floor. He showed police a friend request on Facebook from Samantha Hughes, which he rejected.

The police began to investigate and found out that Hughes and one of the victims of the attack with the hammer men were friends on Facebook. Detectives went to Hughes and asked for a meeting to ask some questions. After conferring with Rivera and Strickland about what to do, the girl agreed to meet with police Saturday night. And took Leah Dzhilotti.

Hughes told police that he had met with Collison – they were together at the party, but she left, she became ill due to drinking. When asked about the address, Hughes said she doesn’t remember where it was but offered to drive around to find this place. Patrols with the police ended in nothing — Hughes has led the police to the side, opposites house, where they derival of Kallias and his friend.

Police released the girl.

That same day masked men put a gun to the head of Collies and demanded that he called your Bank. Kollias asked customer service to help transfer my money to his account on demand. The clerk replied that at the weekend the money transfer is impossible. Kallias insisted: “I really need the money.” But to help him the clerk could not.

“My life was much more important than the money, says now Kollias. I just wanted to survive.”

Calling again, Kollias said, “if I could get fifteen hundred dollars, simply transferring them to the debit card for withdrawal?” The clerk again replied that until Monday to transfer the money impossible. “Okay, okay. I’ll call back on Monday”. An employee of the Bank and wished him a good weekend. If he saw a gun pointed at the head of Collies…

When evening came, the kidnappers began to quarrel. “We kind of argued a little, why don’t we let them go,” – said then Hughes for questioning. She and Dzhilotti claim that it is not expected that Strickland will be so hard to implement a plan of revenge Rivera…

After returning from a meeting with the police, the two girls very anxious about what will happen to them next. According to them, initially thought that the river and Strickland just going to punch players. In addition, Strickland was threatened. “He called us bitches,” explains Hughes. Dzhilotti same laments: “When a person is stoned and drunk, he cares nothing”. She says: “Strickland was going to kill us if we tell the police”.

* * *

To Saturday night the campus police gave their investigation the police Department of Rochester. City detectives noticed strange activity with your Bank account of Kollias – through ATMs he was acquitted of thousands of dollars. Surveillance cameras have recorded ATM blue Dodge Dzhilotti. Then the girl told that he and Hughes sat in the car in front, and Strickland back. When he lowered glass in the car to use the card Kollias, Strickland was the same black and white mask with a skull. But then he took off his mask, standing before the ATM camera with an open face.

Strickland took thousands of dollars and went shopping. Among other things, he bought a leather jacket for $ 799, a pair of jeans for $27.99 and shoes.

Police chief Michael Ciminelli sure that life, Kollias saved by the fact that on the weekends it was impossible to transfer money: “I have no doubt that if the kidnappers got all the money from the account guys would kill”.

That night a tenant on the seventh floor, which has ignored requests Hughes on Facebook, found Isaiah Smith and asked what he knows about the incident with teammates. Then, according to police, Smith got in touch with their former suppliers of drugs and “offered them $ 15,000 in exchange for the release of” the players. “But they said, “We don’t want money, we want blood.”

Detectives told Ciminelli negotiations between Smith early Sunday morning. He urgently gathered all in one police investigating kidnapping and assault with a hammer, so they can share with each other all the information. In addition, the chief of police had mobilized its forces and is ordered to interrogate all who could be related to both crimes, including Smith, Hughes and Dzhilotti.

Smith knew little. And Hughes and Dzhilotti after nearly 14 hours of interrogation broke down. “While we were looking for the boys, potratili a watch on the unraveling of lies and innuendo, says Ciminelli. – Until he finally figured out the details that led us at 22 Harvest Street”.

* * *

On Sunday morning, the men in masks before entering the room where they kept Kollias was blasting music. “Came in very angry, recalls Kollias. – Started saying that I lied to them about the fact that cards no longer work, and they can’t get more money. Then they said they will kill us.

They started shooting in different directions and poke the barrel of us in their mouths, fasten to the body. Began to shoot, placing the barrel at the last moment. The casings from the bullets were everywhere. I was without a shirt, hot liners I burned me.”


The scene of the crime.

The Prosecutor’s office says that Saturday and Sunday in the house going in and out of nine people. One is to drink and watch football, others to buy drugs. Some even went out to buy food for the prisoners. But no one tried to help them escape…

The kidnappers have put curtains on the Windows, the light outside did not penetrate, but Kollias tracked time listening to coming through the wall sounds of football matches.

When the TV announced the start of Sunday evening’s match, the house shook from the blast. “Everything started shaking, I saw a bright flash, says Kollias. – I thought that they set fire to the house.”

But that riot police arrived.

After the explosion the side door the soldiers broke into the house. Detained two men who keep an eye on the prisoners.

Kollias and his friend were found in the bedroom. They were unrelated, but all wounded. Kollias could not walk.

Stepping over the shards of glass, the commandos searched the house, found a plastic mask, a weapon of attack. And bleach, scraped off the blood of Collias. In the attic were hidden rifle. But neither Strickland nor Rivera wasn’t inside. They were arrested in the following days.

* * *

Nine people went to prison for the kidnapping and torture of Kallias and his friend. Troy received terms of supervision of the prisoners.


Above: Liddell Strickland, top right: Samantha Hues. Below: Elliot Rivera and Leah Dzhilotti.

Samantha Hughes and lia Dzhilotti pleaded guilty and testified against the others. The girls were sentenced to a dozen years in prison.

Three of the four tormentors, captured on video from a mobile phone, including Elliot Rivera, also pleaded guilty and got 35 years.

During the trial of Lydella Strickland in December 2016 prosecutors described him as a “ringleader” and “mastermind” of the conspiracy. Strickland only laughed when he was sentenced to 155 years in prison.

Three months later, Isaiah Smith appeared before the judge for arranging the robbery of drug dealers, which started the whole story… In the hearings on Smith case the judge told the footballer: “I Suppose you couldn’t understand what result you are running events”. And sentenced Smith to 13 and a half years in prison.

Kollias believes that the nightmare would not have happened if the University in time to stop the machinations of Smith drug, if coaches weren’t so blinded by his football talents of Smith…

“I had three or four blood transfusions, says Kollias. To the hip put titanium rod, it is secured with screws. The surgeons removed the glass from the cavity of the middle ear region of the scalp and skull.”

Kollias finally started to sleep normally again. “The night alone was very difficult,” he complained.

Despite the fact that his football career came to an end, Kollias remains piano. He recently released his first recording on iTunes. One of his favorite things is “moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven. She calms. When he plays, relaxes – carried away from what happened in the house at 22 Harvest Street.


Nico Kollias after release.

“I made a conscious decision to live, to survive and to overcome the challenge, to which I found myself, says Kollias. And I did it.”

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