Shelter Employee Recovering after Machete Attack at Work

10 Jul, 2024 Liz Carey


Athens, GA ( – An employee of a homeless shelter is recovering after one of the shelter’s residents attacked him with a machete.

Officials said Chris Sullen, 53, was working at the Advantage Homeless Center when he was attacked. Now, as he recovers and regains his ability to speak, he said he hopes he’ll be able to regain his vision as well.

Sullens works to help people get jobs and housing, officials said, and was working at the Center on June 20 when he was attacked. Police in Athens said they responded to the Center around 4 p.m. where they found an employee with severe head and face injuries. Sullens was airlifted to a hospital with damage to his skull, large cuts on his head, and fractures around both eyes. According to the police, he has lost his left eye, and is still working to get vision back in his right eye.

Not long after the attack, police arrested Cedric Smith, 33, of Athens. He was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery and possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime.

Online records show that Smith was out on probation when the attack happened. He had been serving time in prison for cutting a University of Georgia student in 2017. Records indicate the student had been walking on the sidewalk near Mark Twain Circle when Smith began to talk to him. Smith then turned violent and punched the student.

“The victim told police he began to run, but the suspect chased him,” records said.

The student was injured in the attack and was left with a large, deep laceration on the side of his next caused by a razor blade.

Smith also had past charges for battery, shoplifting, and obstruction, police said. In 2013, he threatened a woman with a knife on an Athens sidewalk, court records showed.

By the beginning of July, Sullens was beginning to speak again, but was still on a ventilator. Through his sister, he said he was hoping that he would regain his sight. He told news outlets that he did not want the attack to shed a negative light on the homeless community.

His sister, Teresa Sullens Baker, started a GoFundMe page for him to help with medical expenses.

“He had extensive damage to his skull, with several large lacerations over his head and several fractures, part of his skull was lodged in his brain and his brain was bulging through the openings in the fractures. He had fractures around both eyes and extensive bleeding from his head and eyes,” Baker wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Thanks to the very quick response by one of Chris's clients and 2 of his co-workers, they were able to keep him stable and pressure wrap his head to keep him from losing more blood, which likely saved his life.”

Baker said Sullens has had surgeries to repair his skull, facial reconstruction and surgery on his eyes, as well as to remove his left eye.

As of July 5, the GoFundMe page had raised more than $30,000.

“In this world, where there’s all this division, there has been so much love,” said Baker.

Attacks on shelter workers and healthcare professionals have been on the rise.

In Peekskill, N.Y., a social worker attacked while doing a site visit earlier this year died of her injuries.

Maria Coto was attacked in May at an apartment at 900 South Street. According to police, Coto was visiting a client when she entered the apartment. According to witness statements, she was chased by Hasseem Jenkins, her alleged attacker, into another apartment yelling, “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you, b****.”

Westchester County District Attorney’s office reports said Jenkins “… repeatedly punch[ed] [Maria] Coto with his fists and did repeatedly kick Ms. Coto with heavy boots … above the head and body causing Ms. Coto to sustain severe brain bleed, swelling of the brain, and multiple facial fractures…”

Coto was placed on life-support at Westchester County Medical Center. Officials removed Coto from the ventilator in early June. She died on June 19. Immediately following her death, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office said, “The District Attorney’s office sends our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Maria Coto on the news of her passing. The DA’s Office will pursue all appropriate charges given the change in circumstances.”

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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