SARANAC LAKE - A local man has been arrested in connection with a racially charged incident that happened outside of a local bar in late October.
Village police charged Bernard J. McCormick, 28, of Vermontville, with third-degree assault as a hate crime, a class E felony. Chief Bruce Nason told the Enterprise he was arrested in connection with an altercation that took place outside of Romano's Saranac Lanes in the early morning hours of Oct. 28.
McCormick was arrested on a warrant issued by village court at 10:47 p.m. Sunday.
"This is our first arrest as part of this investigation," Nason said. "Other warrants have been received, and we are looking for other defendants."
The Enterprise has published two letters by eyewitnesses who were critical of the police department's handling of the incident. Romano's employee Jeffrey Brown, in a letter published Nov. 5, said one man involved in the incident directed racial slurs at another individual and threatened to go home, get his AK-47 and "blow all of these (N-word)s away."
Another writer, Rikelmy Williams, said in a Nov. 6 letter that her husband, who is African-American, was jumped by a "group of guys and was hurt to the point of going to the hospital and getting five stitches on his face." She also mentioned the racial slurs and the death threat, and said she was upset that police didn't arrest anyone for this.
Nason explained this morning that arrests weren't made immediately because his officers needed to get the facts straight.
"The investigation started the morning it was reported to us," he said. "We were not able to get statements from everybody at the scene. People were coming in afterward to be interviewed. It was just a matter of getting things scheduled and getting the logistics right.
"If more information develops, more arrests are possible."
Nason said the incident was reported as an altercation. He confirmed that one person went to the hospital to be treated for injuries, which prompted the assault charge against McCormick.
Nason also confirmed that racial slurs were used during the altercation.
"They were used prior to, and possibly during and after the incident," he said. "We're continuing to gather information from people that were there."
McCormick was processed at the police station, arraigned in village court and remanded to Franklin County Jail in lieu of $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond. An officer with the county sheriff's department said McCormick was still at the jail this morning.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.