|Vigil at Nebraska Capitol for Hate Crime Victim|
By Chris Dyer | LINCOLN, NE -- Over 500 people gathered on the steps of the Nebraska State Capitol Sunday night to hold a vigil for the woman brutalized early Sunday morning in what local LGBTQ activists are calling a hate crime.
According to Lincoln Police Captain Joe Wright, patrol officers responded to an address two blocks south of Lincoln High School, near 22 and E streets in the downtown area, for a reported assault and house fire.
The victim told responding officers that she had been attacked earlier that morning by three masked men who barged into her house, bound her wrists and ankles with zip ties, cut her all over her body and carved homophobic slurs into her skin before dumping gasoline on her floor and lighting it with a match.
Lincoln fire department arson investigator Damon Robbins, told the local media that there was evidence of that match flame ignited vapors from a pool of gasoline on the woman's floor, but the flash fire did not continue to burn and caused no noticeable damage to the house.
Lincoln's Police Chief Jim Peschong, refused to comment, citing the fact that the criminal investigation was ongoing.
Media accounts and Facebook posts detailing the victim's assault sparked outrage in the LGBTQ community, which is already galvanized by the ongoing debate over the city's fairness amendment- a proposal to ban discrimination in housing and employment based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity- which has been opposed by anti-gay opponents citing religious protections and freedoms claiming that they were being ignored by the city's council. The measure is now on a ballot referendum for this November.
Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc, a group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Lincoln, expressed confidence Sunday night that the police would handle the case with diligence and with respect to those involved. They had a history of doing so, he said.
“I have a lot of faith in our police department,” he said. “We have a long history of support within our community. We are shocked and saddened by the report of an alleged hate crime involving a member of the LGBT community early Sunday morning.
Our hearts go out to the victim, her family and close friends. Many in our community are understandably experiencing a great deal of sadness, anger and confusion. We look to our entire community to pull together in this difficult time, " he said.
The crowd spilled into 14th Street from the west stairs and sidewalk of the Capitol. Police forced attendees onto the Capitol lawn to make room for passing vehicles.
Karen Bratton-Cranford, president of the LGBT advocate group Star City Pride, took the microphone to urge those gathered to act with respect and to refrain from seeking revenge.
“Don’t go out and act on your own,” she said. “Don’t give them the power to control your actions." ~ The Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper
A Facebook event for the vigil had been shared with almost 10,000 people, with 775 saying they planned to attend -- either in person or in spirit.
Police told LGBTQNation that no arrests had been made as of late Sunday evening.