OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, said Monday they are investigating a possible gay hate crime against a 33-year-old woman who was tied up in her home and had words sliced onto her body by three masked attackers.
The attack prompted a vigil by about 500 people in the state’s capitol Sunday.
The woman told police that three masked men entered her home in south Lincoln early Sunday morning, tied her up and carved words into her body with a knife, according to a police report. Local media reported that the words were gay slurs, but police declined to confirm this.
Police did confirm that the woman was injured and treated at a local hospital. Anti-gay graffiti was spray-painted inside the home, according to police. A fire also was set in the kitchen, but burned itself out after causing about $200 in damage, according to a police arson report.
Katie Flood, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln Police Department, said that “multiple detectives” are working on the case, but the department does not want to release many details this early in the investigation.
“Doing so could compromise our ability to conduct quality suspect interviews at a later date,” she said. Nothing was reported stolen from the home.
The alleged crime and vigil come in the wake of public 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. The City Council approved the measure in May, but opponents obtained enough signatures to keep it from going into effect before an as-yet unscheduled public vote.
“It was the talk of the town,” said Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc, a Lincoln gay rights support group. He said public comments to the council about the ordinance have run in favor of keeping it.
Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city, approved anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender residents in March.
Richard, who attended Sunday’s vigil, said Outlinc has “full faith” in the Lincoln Police Department, which he said has a long history of support for the city’s gay and lesbian community.
“We trust that their investigation will be fair and complete and we await the results,” Richard said in a statement. “As we consider the possible impetus for this horrific attack we are reminded more than ever why fairness is vital in our city.”
Richard said that other vigils are being discussed. The victim has not been publicly identified.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement agencies reported 8,208 victims of hate crimes in 2010. Of these, 18.6 percent were targeted due to sexual-orientation bias.
Reporting By Mary Wisniewski. Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Cynthia Osterman