(LINCOLN, Neb.) — Nebraska cops are hunting three masked men who carved derogatory epithets into the body of an openly gay woman.
“Three men wearing masks, that’s all the victim was able to provide,” said Officer Katie Flood of the Lincoln Police Department.
“Derogatory terms associated with her sexual orientation were painted inside her home,” the officer said.
Flood would not comment on what was carved into the victim’s body.
The woman, who is 33, was bound, gagged and mutilated early Sunday and the three attackers splashed the victim’s home with gasoline and tried to set it on fire, scorching a floor, police reports state. The attack is being classified as a hate crime.
“According to our policy any offense is classified as a hate crime when it appears biased regarding someone’s sexual orientation,” Flood said.
The officer refused to divulge additional details, telling ABC News, “We are not releasing any further details.”
A neighbor of the woman was appalled by the attack.
“When someone takes the time to handcuff someone with a zip tie and carve derogatory comments or words into somebody else’s body, that’s sheer hate and at this point, this is a hate crime,” a neighbor who declined to be identified told ABC affiliate KLKN.
The victim is openly homosexual, said her friend Erin Thompson who spoke with the Omaha World-Herald. She said that the attackers slashed the word “dyke” among two other epithets into the victim’s stomach and arm.
Hundreds of Lincoln residents came out to show their support for the victim, holding a vigil in front of the State Capitol Building Sunday evening. “Hate crimes are despicable and appalling to me and to all Lincoln residents,” the city’s mayor said in a statement.
Among those present at the vigil were members of Lincoln’s gay and lesbian community.
“Someone hurt someone in my family — my LGBT family,” one person told ABC’s KLKN.
Some residents fear this may be a setback for the local gay and lesbian community, one that that only two months prior saw local officials approve a measure that would ensure fair treatment of gay and transgendered residents in housing and job applications.
“Another reason it’s difficult to come out in Lincoln,” wrote one commenter on Outlinc’s Facebook page, a local non-profit organization that supports the city’s LGBT community.
“Many in our community are understandably experiencing a great deal of sadness, anger, and confusion,” said Tyler Richard, President of Outlinc, in a statement on the organization’s homepage.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jethro Mullen and K.J. Kwon, CNN
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Darran Simon and Chandrika Narayan, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN