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Minority groups want arrests in paintball attacks

Posted: Sunday, March 04, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Leaders of local minority groups and civil rights organizations expressed frustration Friday with the pace of a police investigation into a videotaped paintball attack in January that singled out Alaska Natives.

The attack exposed racist attitudes that minorities have long known to exist in Anchorage and elsewhere in the state, some said.

They also were astonished, some minority members said, to learn that one of the paintball victims was arrested for disorderly conduct when he tried to tell a police officer he had been shot from a car.

The organizations gathered at a special meeting called by the Minority Community Police Relations Task Force at Anchorage police headquarters. Panel members wanted to know why the three white teen-agers police say carried out the attacks have not been arrested.

''The concern we have is, if these people had been minorities, would they still be out on the street?'' asked the Rev. William Green, task force chairman.

Police Chief Walt Monegan, who is part Alaska Native, said police are not finished gathering evidence and cannot chance jeopardizing the investigation.

''The perpetrators should be tried in the appropriate forum, not in the media,'' Monegan said. Because most of the victims are homeless, police have found it difficult finding them, he added.

The attacks occurred Jan. 14, a Sunday night, after the teens left their homes in Eagle River and drove to downtown Anchorage, according to police.

A victim reported the car's license tag. Investigators found the suspects later that night and confiscated a paintball gun and the videotape they created.

To legally establish that the attack was a hate crime, it's important to identify as many victims as possible, Monegan said.

''If it's just one or two or three, the shooting could be random,'' he said. ''The more (victims) we have, the better it cements the motive.''

The suspects are not a flight risk, Monegan said.

Police have identified eight victims and are trying to locate a ninth. Investigators and the district attorney's office are weighing charges ranging from harassment to assault, said police Lt. Tom Nelson. The FBI also is investigating.

Leaders of Native and other minority organizations were particularly concerned that one of the victims was arrested soon after being shot with a paintball gun.

Leonty Fratis, 39, who gives his address as the Brother Francis Shelter, was hit several times. Fratis became agitated and then belligerent when a police officer accosted him on the street soon after the attack, Nelson said, and the officer saw no evidence of a shooting.



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