Authorities are searching for a healthcare reform activist today who they said bit off the finger of a 65-year-old counter-demonstrator during a fight at a MoveOn.org rally in Thousand Oaks.
“It all started with their difference in philosophy over healthcare reform,” said Senior Deputy Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
The incident occurred about 7 p.m. Wednesday at a “We Can’t Afford to Wait Vigil” organized by affiliates of the activist group MoveOn.org, which drew supporters of President Obama’s healthcare plan, Buschow said. The rally also attracted several counter-protesters, he said.
During the rally at Lynn Road and Hillcrest Drive, near the Oaks Mall, the two men got into a heated argument and began fighting.
“At which point, one man bit off the left pinky of the other,” Buschow said.
The injured demonstrator then drove himself to Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center about a mile away, he said.
Ilyse Hogue, director of political advocacy and communications for MoveOn.org, called the incident “a regrettable act of violence” in a statement released this morning.
“While we do not have any more facts about what happened than what we saw in press accounts, MoveOn condemns violence in all forms,” Hogue said. “We support the Ventura County sheriff’s investigation into the situation. It is in our firm hope that this event does not detract from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard for health care reform and a public option.”
Authorities said they are looking for a white male in his late 40s or 50s who was last seen wearing black shorts and a black shirt.
“We’re still trying to figure out who was the aggressor,” Buschow said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Ventura Sheriff’s Department at (805) 494-8201.
KTLA has more.
The finger-biting incident occurred after a member of the group protesting health care reform, William Rice, 65, of Newbury Park, became involved in a heated discussion with a member of Code Pink, sheriffs Capt. Ross Bonfiglio said.
After the argument, Rice returned to where his own group was standing.
A man from Moveon.orgs area then walked over to the opponents and verbally confronted Rice, allegedly calling him names and acting aggressively, Bonfiglio said.
Rice later told investigators he felt threatened by the man and punched him in the nose, Bonfiglio said.
The punch set off a fist fight between the two men, during which the tip of Rices left pinky finger was bitten off, Bonfiglio said.
I guess you could say that Rice struck first, but only after the biter went well out of his way to target him. The fact that Rice lost part of a finger indicates something very disturbing about the unknown attacker.