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Hate crime update

Normal 0 false false false /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0pc .45pc 0pc .45pc; mso-para-margin:0pc; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} In the latest edition of the Portland Phoenix, which is on the streets now, we tell you about a hate crime that happened at 12:30 am on Saturday morning on Cumberland Avenue. (I'll post the link shortly.)

The Portland police held a press conference this morning on the matter, giving official commentary that will trigger reports in the other local media. (At least two media outlets knew about the hate crime on Monday, and published nothing about a violent attack whose perpetrators are still on the loose - not until receiving a statement from a government official.)

Now that the police are commenting, we at the Phoenix do know a little bit more than we learned over the course of the past two days.

Captain Vern Malloch says there is at present no other connection to recent violent crimes, including the fatal shooting of a Mercy Hospital security guard the morning after this hate crime, or the still-unsolved death of Edward Okeny (see "Who Killed Edward Okeny?" by Rick Wormwood, December 5, 2007) elsewhere on Cumberland Avenue a few months back.

The police do not think the attackers had any weapons, meaning the beating was administered by hand. The victim was hit in the head at least once, with enough force to make him fall to the ground. Police are not sure if he was hit any more than the once.

The victim was not robbed, and robbery does not appear to have motivated the attack. Instead, "the motivation for this assault appears to be nothing more than the appearance of the individual," Malloch said at the press conference. The attackers were assisted in their getaway by the driver of a late-model white sedan with "fancy chrome wheels," according to a written statement distributed at the event.

Police are searching for that car - no license-plate number is known - and for the attackers, who are described as two men in their early 20s. "One is a black male, 5'6" to 5'10", with a muscular build and shaved head or very short hair. He is thought to be the primary aggressor," according to the written statement. "The other individual is a white male, thin build with long brown hair."

People with information can contact the Portland police at 207.874.8604 or through the citizen-input form at police.portlandmaine.gov.

Malloch said reports of hate crimes in Portland are on the decline, and there are no others under investigation by Portland police at present.

Also speaking at the event was Merrie Cartwright, a friend of the victim whom we quoted in our earlier story. She specifically warned the city's gay and lesbian community to "please be vigilant for your own safety" in the wake of this attack, saying "Portland is not as safe as many of us thought."

She said the bleeding in the victim's brain appeared to have stopped as of yesterday, when he visited a neurologist, but he still faces a long recovery time, during at least some of which he will be unable to work.

Cartwright beseeched the attackers, who she said "must have a past filled with hate and violence," to turn themselves in.

In addition to visiting HealPortland.com, a Web site set up by the victim's friends, concerned people who want to donate money or other help can contact the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence or EqualityMaine.

-with additional reporting by Deirdre Fulton

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