Police investigate possible racial motives in assault of Berwick man

Posted July 28, 2012, at 6:27 a.m.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Portsmouth police say they are continuing to investigate whether an alleged attack by a black man on a white man outside The Page restaurant earlier this month was racially motivated.

The suspect is currently held at York County Jail in Maine for a probation violation and authorities say that, while a warrant is issued for his arrest, it is unclear when he will be transported across state lines to face New Hampshire charges.

Josiah Mayo, 24, with a last known address of 48 Clinton St., Portsmouth, was identified by witnesses as the person who allegedly attacked a man in the Vaughan Mall area at approximately 1 a.m. on Sunday, July 15.

Mayo has been charged with second-degree assault, a Class B felony. Witnesses from an approximate 20- to 25-person group exiting local bars around that time reported a black male with curly hair punched the victim and then kicked him before leaving the scene.

The victim, a 32-year-old man from North Berwick, Maine, was found unconscious by officials with a fractured skull and transported to Portsmouth Regional Hospital with injuries believed to be non-life threatening. As of Thursday afternoon the victim has been released from the hospital in stable condition, according to Sgt. Dave Keaveny reported.

When police could not find the assailant last week, they issued several notices to the public asking for help in identifying the suspect. Keaveny said after several more witnesses to the assault came forward with details police were able to identify Mayo as their suspect.

Keaveny said the matter is still under investigation as to what led to the initial altercation. Police report the victim was with a group of people when Mayo allegedly walked by with another group of acquaintances. Several words were exchanged between the two groups, which sparked the initial incident, but it is unclear at the time if the victim said anything to provoke Mayo and his alleged assault, according to police.

While he could not comment as to whether the incident was racially triggered, Keaveny confirmed racial epithets were uttered.

“There were racial slurs thrown back between different groups, but if the victim actually said anything, at this point, we’re looking at it because it doesn’t sound like he was the one saying those racial slurs,” he said. “Whether the attack was predicated on it, I don’t want to get into it.”

Keaveny said Mayo’s probation status was changed to Maine after he moved there recently, though he could not comment on the man’s previous criminal history. He said his probation stemmed from crimes based out of New Hampshire, but could not confirm what those charges were.

Keaveny said police are waiting on blood-alcohol level tests to come back from the involved parties as alcohol consumption is believed to have played a role in the case as well.

Keaveny said while he believes Portsmouth is a “safe city,” incidents similar to this tend to arise in the summertime with larger crowds and visiting tourists.

“We’re always concerned about the summertime crowd, the drinking, and when the bars are let out,” he said. “We actually have additional resources directed to downtown when the bars are closing.”

Police say they are still interested in speaking with anyone who witnessed the assault. Involved parties are asked to contact Detective Robert Munson at 610-7506.

© 2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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