Home Fox Valley Appleton man arrested in assault of Black woman

Appleton man arrested in assault of Black woman

This piece was produced for the NEW News Lab, a collaboration between five newsrooms covering important issues in Northeast Wisconsin.

An Appleton man is in custody after an apparently unprovoked attack against a Black woman Friday afternoon, some of which the victim caught on video.

Police say Steven Huss, 54, turned himself in and was arrested Friday evening for battery and robbery with use of force.

Natasha Fuller, 22, said she was out walking Friday afternoon to relax after a hard day and walked into Kimball Alley, just south of College Avenue. Listening to music on AirPods, she wasn’t immediately aware of Huss pulling his truck up behind her until he honked his horn. She told Madison365 in an interview Saturday that she stepped to the side, and he pulled the truck in front of her as if to block her way or force her off the alley. That’s when Fuller said he got out of the truck and approached aggressively, and Fuller pulled out her cell phone.

“I didn’t think he was gonna get out of his car. And that’s when I started recording,” she said. “I just thought I was gonna be like him yelling at me. Fine. At least I would have proof. I didn’t think he was going to put his hands on me. I’m trying to record his license plate and get whatever information and then he sees me recording and I think that’s what triggered him. He reaches for my phone and he just grabbed my braids and slammed me to the ground and started wailing on me like we’re both two men in a barfight.”

According to the police report, Huss later said when he saw Fuller recording video he became “afraid of being on the internet.” He further told police he had been stressed lately, but couldn’t identify any specific stressors.

Caution: the video below, captured by Fuller, is only 7 seconds long but contains violence and profane language.

The police report also indicates that Huss was armed with a handgun in a holster on his hip, but did not use it to threaten Fuller.

Fuller was only able to capture a few seconds of video before Huss took her phone. The video shows Huss using profanity toward Fuller before throwing her to the ground.

According to the police report, Huss took Fuller’s phone and placed it in his truck, and assaulted her again when she reached into the truck to get it back. He left the scene with her phone.

Nearby witnesses told police they could hear Fuller screaming and came to investigate. Fuller said they were able to call 911 and police arrived within minutes. Police were able to make contact with Huss’s wife, who called Huss and told police he would meet them at the police station. Police say they were able to recover Fuller’s phone from him and place him in custody without further incident.

Court records indicate formal charges have not yet been filed. Outagamie County Jail records indicate Huss was still in custody as of Monday afternoon.

Fuller, a certified nursing assistant who will begin training to become a licensed practical nurse at Fox Valley Technical College later this month, said the experience was “traumatic.”

“He didn’t know anything (about me), he  just popped out of the car and was like, ‘this is it for you,’” she said. “That’s not okay. I’ll be okay. At the end of the day, I’ll be fine regardless, but that situation is not fine.”

The police report indicates that there was no indication that the attack was racially motivated. Fuller said she doesn’t recall any racial slurs being used, but also doesn’t remember a lot of the details about what was said. In any case she disagrees that it wasn’t motivated by bias.

“I definitely think it’s a hate crime, whether it’s women, whether it’s towards black people or black women … I don’t know,” she said. “(Maybe he was) just having a bad day. Okay. But so was I, and I just went for a walk. I didn’t treat someone mercilessly in an alleyway.”

In a statement published to their website Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on law enforcement to further investigate whether the attack was racially motivated.

“Because of the nature of the alleged assault and the rising level of bigotry nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this disturbing incident,”  CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in the statement.

Fuller was treated at St. Elizabeth Hospital for lacerations and a mild concussion and released. 

“Definitely going forward with charges and hopefully like that can lead him to get some help,” Fuller said, nothing she suspects Huss may have some “anger management problems that need to be addressed.”

Court records indicate Huss made his initial court appearance at 3:30 pm Monday on charges of battery and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, and robbery with the use of force, a class E felony. Bail was set at $1,500 and a provision of bail would be that Huss would have no contact with Fuller and not possess or carry any dangerous weapons.

Court records indicate that Huss posted bond on Thursday, August 4, and that Fuller had filed for a restraining order against him.

This story has been updated to reflect the outcome of Monday’s court proceedings and the statement from CAIR.