A homeless man has been arrested this week in connection with an alleged hate crime attack on a Muslim Harvard student last month.
Twenty-five-year-old Benjamin Bargeil was taken into custody by Cambridge Police detectives early Monday morning. Police department spokesman Frank Pasquarello says the suspect was tracked down by officers working overtime near the Harvard Square T station.
“We were looking for him and a couple of others who’ve been causing some problems,” Pasquarello says, “and we got some information that [led us] to the Charles River and Memorial Drive. That’s where [we] found [a suspect] fitting the description.”
Bargeil is charged with assault and battery, assault and battery shod foot (kicking the victim), and civil rights violations. Police say he and another man punched and kicked a Harvard senior outside St. Paul’s Church as the victim was returning home from an Islamic prayer meeting on Sept. 19. He was wearing a prayer cap at the time.
The Rev. C. Irving Cummings, president of the United Ministry at Harvard, says he’s pleased there’s been an arrest in the case, although he warns people not to “rush to judgment.
“I want to make sure we don’t try this person in the press, or otherwise,” Cummings says. “On the other hand, if this is the right person, I hope that some creative way can be found to help him realize that what he did was not OK.”
Local religious leaders organized a silent vigil in Harvard Square just days after the alleged attack to heighten awareness in and around the campus, and to call for peace and tolerance in the community. About 150 people attended the rally.
Cambridge Police are continuing their search for the second suspect in last month’s attack. Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the department at (617) 349-3301.