AP, June 26, 2003
By MARK PRATT, Associated Press
BOSTON — Police arrested three men accused of hogtying, beating and stabbing a pizza delivery man because they mistakenly believed he was Muslim.
Saurabh Bhalerao, 24, was attacked late Sunday while delivering pizza in New Bedford, about 60 miles south of Boston.
The suspects originally intended to rob Bhalerao, but escalated the assault mistakenly believing he was Muslim, said Fairhaven police Chief Gary F. Souza. The attacks continued as Bhalerao, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, explained that he was Hindu.
“He pleaded with his attackers,” Souza said. “They were using disparaging remarks … and telling him he should go back to Iraq.”
The suspects put the victim into the trunk of his own car and, during the drive to the neighboring town of Fairhaven, Bhalerao managed to loosen his ropes.
When the vehicle stopped he got out and hit one of his assailants with a hammer. The assailant then stabbed Bhalerao before fleeing, police said.
Bhalerao was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in fair condition Wednesday night.
The suspects face various charges including armed assault with intent to murder, kidnapping, and hate crime and civil rights violations. All three have pleaded innocent and were being held on bail.
Police were searching for a fourth suspect.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for a federal investigation.