Brutal attack on Lincoln woman being investigated as hate crime

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July 22, 2012 - 7:00pm

More than 500 people gathered outside the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday night for a hastily-called candlelight vigil, responding to word of a brutal assault of a gay woman in her home. The woman was allegedly stripped and mutilated, and according to reports from the woman's friends and neighbors, and more recently, the Lincoln Police Department, she was deliberately targeted because of her sexual orientation.

Photo by Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

Community members gathered at the Capitol building in Lincoln, Neb. on Sunday, July 22, 2012 for a candlelight vigil in honor of a gay woman who was brutally attacked early that morning. Police, who have yet to confirm or deny whether the attack qualifies as a hate crime, estimated around 500 people attended.

Photos by Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

Slideshow of photos from Sunday's vigil; see a full-size version here

Three men who had been waiting in her basement allegedly bound the woman's hands with zip-ties, stripped off her clothing and carved anti-gay slurs into her body.

Police have not released her name. But Erin Thompson, a close friend, described what she was told happened next.

"They put gasoline on the floor and they lit the match. I think the intent was to burn her," she said. "Then they left and she managed to get out. She was still bound, so she was crawling on her hands and knees, and she got out the back door."

The woman crawled to the home of her neighbor, Thompson said, who then called police.

"All of us have a sister who is now hurting, whether you know her or not," Beth Rigatuso, one of several gay rights activists who attended the vigil, told the crowd, which held rainbow flags, posters and candles on the Capitol steps.

"It's not right," she said. "And it will never, ever be right."

Thompson posted word of the attack on Facebook, along with a picture of spray painted words in the victim's basement that read "We found u Dyke." News quickly spread through social media and the vigil was planned in a matter of hours. Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc, a gay community center, said the outpouring of support is testament to the strength of Nebraska's gay community.

"I hope that people walk away and know that we are not going to stand around and be bullied, not by politicians, not by people who live in the community," Richard said. "We are a community that will come together, that will rise up and that we will be strong and we will stay strong."

Richard said the Lincoln Police Department has a long history of reaching out to the LGBT community and he has faith in the department to handle the situation appropriately. Police said the victim was treated and released, but have released few other details. No arrests have been made.




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