Race probed as possible factor in feces episode

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NORTH ADAMS — A day after someone smeared feces outside a woman's apartment, law enforcement and community leaders spoke out resoundingly Thursday to condemn the action.

No arrests have been made, but police continue to investigate and are trying to determine whether it was racially motivated.

"[Investigators] will pursue every lead while ensuring that every citizen's constitutional rights are upheld, protected, and respected in the pursuit of justice for the victim of this reprehensible crime," Police Chief Jason Wood said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

A tenant at Brayton Hill apartments called police about 8 a.m. Wednesday to report that human feces had been smeared on the door, siding and an air-conditioning unit outside her unit. The dispatcher's report refers to the caller as a black woman, and lists two people, one white male and one white female, as "involved parties."

Photos of the scene have been circulating across social media, with many people characterizing the incident as a hate crime. Attempts to contact the victim were unsuccessful.

"The responding officer and detectives assigned to this case are working with the Brayton Hill property manager, Millenia Housing Management, to determine if a suspect or suspects can be identified," Wood said in his statement. "The North Adams Police Department also is working in collaboration with District Attorney [Andrea] Harrington's office to address this incident, including investigating possible racist motivations for this act."

"The District Attorney's office condemns this behavior," Harrington said in the statement issued by Wood. "We will use the full force of the law to hold accountable those who undermine the peace and safety of our community."

North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard also condemned the act, using strong language.

"I can't imagine what it must have felt like to wake up with your kids in a place you feel safe and find something like that," Bernard said. "It's unconscionable, shameful and disgusting for all of us. And it's really a shame that it takes something like this to make people realize that people of color are marginalized all the time."

Bernard said he has seen the "outpouring of support for the family, which is an important step."

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But after the shock fades, he said, the awareness should not, nor should the effort to illuminate those who might someday find themselves committing similar acts.

"To think that we don't have further work to do in this community would be a major mistake," he added.

The mayor said he also has reached out to the victim.

"I just want her to know that she has our support," he said.

A GoFundMe page, which was set up to help pay for a new air conditioner, door locks, security cameras and moving costs, had raised more than $2,500 by Thursday afternoon — exceeding its goal by more than $500.

"Those of us in Berkshire County and beyond who are committed to an anti-racist community can support our neighbor's safety by contributing financially," a message on the page reads.

Meg Bossong, who identified herself as a friend of a friend of the victim, said that many in the community were repulsed by the incident.

"People were really horrified, especially seeing how this fits into a larger pattern of experiences in Berkshire County and nationally," she said. "This was not a family that I know directly, but I feel a responsibility for my neighbors because we live in a small place."

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4945.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com and 413-629-4517.


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