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Police Hate-Crime Response Criticized in North Carolina

Police Hate-Crime Response Criticized in North Carolina

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Police in Asheville, N.C., have classified an assault last week on a man perceived to be gay as a hate crime and arrested two suspects, but the responding officer who failed to file an initial report has been placed under internal investigation.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports on the attack early last Thursday morning on Luke Hankins in an Ingles grocery store parking lot. Lamon Lewis Hopkins has been charged with felony assault inflicting serious injury, and a juvenile male also was arrested and charged with assault and damage to property. Hankins, who said he is not gay, reported that three males and one female taunted him with antigay slurs before one of the men punched him in the face.

"After he went to the emergency room because of pain and nausea, where doctors discovered he had multiple fractures in his face, Hankins said he started wondering about a police report because the officer did not interview the witness," reports the Citizen-Times.

Hankins followed up later on Thursday, and a police report was completed at that time with the responding officer and his supervisor.

"A copy of the report lists the officer as T.J. Jones and his supervisor as J.A. Peterson," reports the Citizen-Times. "Asheville police Lt. Wally Welch would not say whether Jones was the officer who handled the case, citing personnel privacy rules. But the officer is under investigation for not filing a report, Welch said."

Hankins said the officer apologized about the failure to file an initial report, but the victim called the incident a "serious breach of protocol." Community activists also expressed concern.

North Carolina state law does not recognize hate crimes committed because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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