On May 21, 2020

Police investigates harassment of black family with out-of-state plates in Hartford

The Vermont State Police is investigating a bias-related incident that occurred at noon Friday, May 8, in Hartford during which a man was harassed and threatened regarding his family’s presence in Vermont.

The state police received a report of a hate/bias-motivated incident from the victim’s family. The victim reported that at about 10 a.m. that day, he was driving near his residence in Hartford in his vehicle, which has New York registration plates, when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down.

The victim, thinking someone needed assistance, stopped and spoke with a white male. The victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave. There were significant racial undertones to the interaction. The victim, whose 11-year-old son was with him in the vehicle at the time, was in fear for the physical safety of himself and his son. He was able to verbally de-escalate the situation and drive home. No physical altercation occurred.

At this time, investigators do not have descriptions of the vehicles involved, including make, model, registration and direction of travel. Anyone who might have more information is asked to call 802-234-9933.

Vermont is and must continue to be a state where visitors feel welcome, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they come from, even during this pandemic, VSP and the governor have implored. Seasonal residents, the owners of second homes and guests from beyond our borders remain able to travel to Vermont and live here under current health and safety requirements. As restrictions related to Covid-19 begin to ease, Vermonters should be prepared to see more out-of-state visitors, and they deserve the same expectation of safety and security that Vermont residents have, VSP stated in a news release.

“Hate speech and threats are disturbing, unacceptable and have no place in Vermont. The Vermont State Police stands ready at all times to help people who are the victims of crime, including incidents that are perceived as having been motivated by bias or hate, and to hold offenders accountable,” the VSP statement continued.

As Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, VSP director, said: “People in Vermont should not have to worry about crimes motivated by hate at any time, let alone when our communities should be pulling together to face an unprecedented situation that affects all of us. Members of the state police are diligent about responding to all reports of criminal activity and investigating matters with the urgency they require. Anyone who may have been the victim of a bias-motivated crime should report the incident so we can pursue it.”

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