Muslim woman's injuries not result of hate crime, Columbus police say

COLUMBUS - One incident of violence has resulted in two viewpoints on the proper response to it.

Despite urging from a local civil rights organization, the Columbus Division of Police will not be investigating the alleged beating of a Somali woman as a hate crime.

On Sunday, the Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Columbus) stated in a news release that a Somali woman, who it did not name, was attacked on Saturday. The group said this occurred when she intervened to protect another Muslim woman from harassment by a white male.

The woman was beaten unconscious, resulting in facial fractures and the loss of several teeth, the organization said. According to the victim, the alleged attacker reportedly screamed “you all will be shipped back to Africa” prior to beating her.

On Monday afternoon, however, Columbus police issued a statement saying there is not sufficient evidence to make an arrest presently or to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

According to the police statement, officers were dispatched Saturday to the area of 2800 Pinellas Court on allegations of child abuse and a possible kidnapping.

One call to dispatchers said a woman was making threats and was hitting her child with a shoe. A separate call from another person said someone had kidnapped her son because they saw her hitting him. More calls were received while officers were en route. Dispatchers said they could hear threats and the sound of physical confrontation.

When they arrived at the home, the officers found a woman face down in the doorway. A man, who identified himself as her husband, told officers she had been assaulted with something like a Taser. Another woman was sitting on the steps of a nearby house, bleeding from the mouth. She told police she had been assaulted by a man.

The police report does not name any of the individuals involved. It was not possible to reconcile independently the discrepancies between the CAIR-Columbus account and the details in the police report.

The two women were transported to nearby hospitals for their injuries, which, according to police, did not rise beyond the level of misdemeanor assault.

Columbus police said officers temporarily detained the man at the scene. Multiple victims and witnesses were interviewed, but no arrests were made “due to the lack of physical evidence and conflicting stories” by all parties on scene. 

The executive director of CAIR-Columbus, however, expressed dismay with the findings by the police. CAIR-Columbus said it is acting as the woman's legal representative.

“The fact that the perpetrator was not taken into custody and was not charged raises serious concerns and sends a very dangerous message,” Jennifer Nimer said in a news release.  “After what happened last week in Portland, police across the country should be sending a strong message that hate crimes will not be tolerated.  We are asking law enforcement to investigate this as a hate crime and to bring the perpetrator to justice immediately before he commits another act of violence.”

The alleged assault has caused “rumors and speculation” on social media, the police said. One civil rights activist, Linda Sarsour, launched an online  fundraiser for the woman, who is identified on the page as Rahma Warsame, a Somali American and single mother.

The Daily Caller, a right-leaning news outlet, disputed the claim, saying there is no evidence to support the possibility of a hate crime having occurred.

Although police continue to investigate the incident, they have ruled out racism or hate as a motivating factor.

“There is no evidence at this time suggesting the incident involved any type of bias which would constitute the incident being investigated as a hate crime,” police said in the release.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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