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Detroit Residents Take Law Into Their Own Hands When Dealing with Accused Rapist

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By Staff Blogger

There are some crimes that make people cringe and turn away in horror. There are other crimes that make people so mad that they get even and take the law into their own hands.

In a neighborhood in Detroit, a story is unfolding that is making some people rethink their opinions about vigilantism.  A home was spray painted with the word “rapist” after efforts to scrub it off failed.  A 43-year-old man recently lived there until his family moved him out in fear of his safety. Why?

Many in his neighborhood believe that he is a rapist. USA Today reports,  “His accuser  is a 15-year-old girl who, as the streets have it, was cajoled into his apartment on July 17 and attacked. She’s from the neighborhood, too. She has Down syndrome. The neighborhood is furious. The man has not been charged. Police still are investigating. And last Monday, nearly three weeks after the alleged attack, frustration over the slow pace of justice went from simmer to boil. During the lunch hour, people located the man, whose name and image had been circulated in the community, walking along Vernor. They beat him repeatedly. Witnesses at one point saw five attackers. At least one had a baseball bat. The man spent several hours in the hospital that day and then went into hiding. Now the community is torn. Some residents are horrified and wonder how this vigilantism happened. Others have applauded the attackers, posting hallelujahs on Facebook.”

The incident has the neighborhood, community and country split, especially coming off of the heels of the George Zimmerman verdict which some believe was vigilantism at its worse.
In the Detroit case, residents are further angered that a rape kit was not tested until 19 days after the incident. Detroit Interim Deputy Chief Charles Fitzgerald blamed the delay on a logistical glitch since the department that was responsible for testing it recently switched locations. He is quoted as saying. “It’s not an excuse. It should have been done, and it wasn’t.” He said he has launched an internal investigation.

The delay in testing only added fuel to the fire that was already ablaze in the girl’s neighborhood: Rapist Warning flyers appeared in the windows of local restaurants. Once the police did intervene, they searched the man’s home and took away potential evidence to be tested by their labs.

Yet, to date, there still have been no arrests of the suspected rapist or those who attacked him. In cases such as this, is vigilante law ever justified?