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A Hate Crime in My Neighborhood?

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Hearing that a volunteer for the McCain campaign had been attacked and mutilated in my Pittsburgh neighborhood -- indeed, at the very ATM I most often use -- filled me with embarrassment for such mistreatment of a visitor and sympathy for the pain of a fellow being. Disbelief didn't enter my head. Not then.

It was only later, when outside observers (including conservative blogger Michelle Malkin) said the details of the attack didn't pass the "smell test," that I started questioning the story myself. While local police are not specifying what they're calling inconsistencies in the young woman's story, I can see some obvious question marks.

OK, first of all I will admit that I hope the story isn't true, because I am proud of my mixed-income, multi-racial neighborhood, though I also have to admit that we're not without crime or conflict. And the pro-Obama spirit did indeed inspire some local kids into minor vandalism, i.e. they ripped out Hillary Clinton lawn signs during the primary.

Given all that, I have a hard time believing the worst. The alleged attack happened on a very active, pedestrian-friendly street at about 9 p.m., when all the bars and many of the restaurants (including the one across the street) were still open. I would expect people to still be strolling along the avenue, yet there were no witnesses. Workers at the nearest bars and restaurants were questioned by police, and reported seeing or hearing nothing. Trust me, this is definitely not the sort of place where people don't get involved in other people's problems. There would have been other people near this corner in the mid-evening, and they wouldn't have ignored an unconscious, bleeding woman on the street.

Also, what I haven't seen in national coverage is that there is a major hospital a scant two blocks from the ATM in question, yet the young woman did not attempt to go there for immediate medical attention, although she would have had to pass the place (you really can't miss it; it dominates the neighborhood) to go to the friend's house she said she did. News reports say she didn't visit a hospital emergency room until 1 a.m. Yes, such a seemingly bizarre reaction to the crime and the pain could be the result of shock. Was it?

I hope the truth comes out, one way or another, and the cloud of suspicion is dispersed for either this young McCain worker from Texas, or for my home turf.

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