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SOMERVILLE

Pressed, police probe alleged gay-bashing

Email|Print| Text size + By Danielle Dreilinger
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2007

Somerville police last week were investigating an alleged hate crime and possible police error after outcry from a gay-rights group.

Don Gorton, chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, said Lisa Daloia of northeastern Massachusetts and two other women were beaten up in the early hours of Nov. 18 while leaving a friend's house.

A man allegedly started taunting Daloia and her group of six friends earlier in the evening at the On the Hill Tavern in Magoun Square. Gorton said the same man then confronted several of the women at a Dunkin' Donuts, saying, "You're a [expletive] lesbian" and the like while his sister flashed her breasts.

Daloia was knocked unconscious, Gorton said; her friends, he added, received "bruises all over their faces and parts of their bodies." Daloia has been experiencing post-traumatic stress since the incident, he continued. She now fears for her safety and no longer wants to talk to the press.

Police Department spokesman Paul Upton said that as far as police at the scene knew, none of the victims required medical treatment. The only person transported to the hospital in the presence of officers, he said, was "the sister of the man being accused," for an unrelated ailment.Upton would not identify the alleged assailant, but said he lives "substantially away from the city" and was identified by relatives at the scene.

Gorton wrote a letter to the Somerville police chief on Nov. 24 urging an investigation and expressing concern that the alleged perpetrator had not been arrested.

Five days later, the city confirmed, Mayor Joseph Curtatone and state Representative Carl Sciortino met with Daloia and Gorton. "The mayor expressed forcefully that hate crimes were not acceptable in Somerville," Gorton said. Curtatone declined to comment on matters being probed.

In a statement, Sciortino condemned gay-bashing and said he expects "both the incident and how it was handled by the police to be thoroughly investigated."

According to Upton, "as soon as the chief of police became aware of this allegation, he ordered simultaneous investigations" to determine whether the incident was a hate crime and whether the police acted appropriately. He added that the man was not arrested because he left before police arrived.

According to co-chairman César Urrunaga, the Somerville Human Rights Commission has "received few complaints" from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community this year. The "vast majority" of Somerville residents, he said, tolerate or support that community.

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