“The FBI is assisting our department to determine if it fits into the federal hate crimes law passed in October,” Tracy Walden told the Georgia Voice today. “We are focusing all our attention on the investigation itself.”
“People think this is CSI, but an investigation is not done in an hour. We have to find out if there were video cameras in the area because we have many video cameras in the area. And if so, are they usable,” she said.
Questioning the victim is also part of the investigation as is questioning the suspects, she said.
“The information coming out now is there may have been more to it” than what the alleged victim originally reported and that he may not have tried to walk away as he told police initially, she said.
“Whatever happened, that does not give anyone the right to raise their hand and hit someone in violence,” Walden said.
“But we have to investigate this to the fullest extent we can and then turn the information over to the D.A. — whether it falls under a hate crime is for him to decide,” she said.
The federal hate crimes law was passed in October and Walden acknowledged the Savannah-Chatham police department hasn’t had much training on it.
She added that the victim has not given police permission to look at his medical records and also has not returned phone calls to investigators seeking to question him.
“And that holds up the investigation,” she said.
Walden said as soon as the incident happened, she was called at home and has been given updates by the hour.
“We’re asking people to give us a chance to do this investigation. Part of this is a ‘he said, she said’ and we can’t charge anyone on hearsay,” she said.
“I feel for the victim, but if it turns out that someone was insulting someone and now you have a fight, that becomes battery or simple battery,” she said.
That the incident happened at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday indicates alcohol may also have been a factor, Walden said.
“Or did the Marine fully intend to really hit the victim and hurt him?” she asked.
“Nobody has the right to put a hand on someone in a violent manner, but before we start screaming hate crime we have to get all the facts,” she said.