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No evidence that Ogdensburg vandalism amounts to a hate crime

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OGDENSBURG — As city police continue to investigate a string of vandalism incidents at the home of Christopher W. and Theodore M. Gardner on Ford Street, the Gardners have backed off claims that they are the victims of a hate crime.

Over the last several months the Gardners have had tires slashed on their cars and their front windows shot out by BB gun pellets.

On Thursday, however, Christopher Gardner said: “There is no situation, really.”

The Gardners took down a fundraising page on www.gofundme.com where they had hoped to gather $1,000 to use as a reward for information leading to the arrest of the people responsible for the vandalism.

On that page, the Gardners said they were being targeted because they are the only gay couple in the neighborhood.

But after speaking to a representative from the New York Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Gardner said they decided to refund the money that people contributed to the fund.

“We didn’t want to cause any more problems for local police,” Christopher Gardner said, adding that there were fears that the fundraising effort could produce false leads.

“As far as my husband and I are concerned, the Ogdensburg police are investigating the reports as simple vandalism, not as a hate crime,” he said. “That’s all that we were ever asking. I don’t know why everyone is digging for further comment on the situation.”

Barrie Gewanter, director of the Central New York chapter of the Civil Liberties Union, said she spoke with Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton and Police Chief Richard J. Polniak Jr. to address the safety concerns of the Gardners.

“I do want to thank” Mayor William D. Nelson, Ms. Gewanter said, “because we contacted him and he arranged for the meeting to take place the very next day.”

“Certainly it seems that the Gardners are being targeted, but there is not necessarily evidence that it was or was not a hate crime,” she said.

Mr. Polniak said: “We’re still investigating. We have no evidence to support that this is a hate crime. We won’t know for sure what it is until we get a suspect and interview them for their motive.”

Christopher Gardner said that after going to the media about the vandalism, they haven’t had any more problems.

Originally the Gardners said they might have been targeted by former friends of theirs who are involved with drugs and who may have feared the Gardners would talk to the police about their activities.

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