Attack of man not random or hate-related, mayor says

January 14, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A 30-year-old white man whose beating last week in East Baltimore sparked a citywide debate on crime and race was not attacked in a random act of violence, nor was it motivated by hate, the mayor said yesterday.

The victim's wife had told police and reporters that Jonathon Dempsey was assaulted by group of black men. A firefighter who responded to the Jan. 7 incident called WBAL-AM radio and told a talk show that it was a hate crime.

In a hospital interview with Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel shortly after the beating, Dempsey could not offer many details. "He was unable to say if his attackers were African-American, Irish-American or even American," Mayor Martin O'Malley said at a news conference yesterday.

O'Malley's chief spokesman, Tony White, said Dempsey was attacked in the 1500 block of Greenmount Ave. after a woman he knew refused to let him inside a rowhouse on Pitman Place to use a phone. White said the attack was the result of a "previous conflict" with people in the neighborhood.

Dempsey, who had lived in the Pitman Place rowhouse before moving to Texas, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

His wife, Jennifer Christensen, has said Dempsey was attacked after leaving the Baltimore Department of Social Services and had stopped to use a pay phone. She also said a black police officer refused to write a report.

Dempsey was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center and transferred to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Police do not dispute that he was severely beaten, and suffered from a broken nose, swollen eyes and knocked-out teeth.

Complicating the incident is an apparent error by a Baltimore police officer. Department officials have said the officer responded twice to emergency calls about an assault but could not locate a victim. Police did not know about the incident until it was broadcast on WBAL-AM radio, after Dempsey had been treated at the hospital. A report was written 24 hours later.

The unidentified officer's actions are being investigated. Sources close to the mayor said the officer initially told his superiors that he met Dempsey after the second 911 call, but that "it appeared there was no need for police action."

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