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American urges St. Maarten to find attackers

/ Source: The Associated Press

A gay American who was beaten with a tire iron in this Dutch Caribbean island returned to St. Maarten on Friday to urge authorities to arrest the "well-known punks" who harmed him and a friend who suffered brain damage from the attack.

New York journalists Dick Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were outside a bar with several friends last week when three men attacked them. Jefferson, who said the attackers had yelled anti-gay slurs at his friends earlier that evening, has faulted local authorities for not speaking to witnesses the night of the crime or pursuing leads.

"The people who harmed us are well-known punks," he told journalists. "People in the community know who these guys are. They are not talking to the police. The entire island is watching something bad happening."

St. Maarten Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein said several people have come forward with information and his office was investigating the response time of police officers who went to the crime scene.

Smith and Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for “CBS Evening News,” were airlifted for medical treatment to Miami. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith was being treated for brain damage.

Justice would be served "if the men that did this are caught, incarcerated and prosecuted and if when I visit St. Maarten, or my friends that live here, tell me that they are not afraid to go out at night," Jefferson said Friday after meeting with local authorities and the U.S. consul general for the Netherlands Antilles.

Although Jefferson believes his friends were attacked because they are gay, the attackers likely didn't know his sexual orientation since he showed up after the beating began, he said.

"I got whacked because I asked what" was going on, said Jefferson, who planned to return Saturday to the United States. "These guys were out to kill someone, and they probably will before they’re done."

St. Maarten is a popular Caribbean tourist destination shared by France and the Netherlands.