Police probe incident in cross country race
By Peter Smith
Published: November 15, 2007
CUMBERLAND – Police have yet to identify a man who reportedly threw an unknown substance into the eyes of a Lewiston High School runner during a championship race Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Area.
Mohamed Noor, an 18-year-old Lewiston resident, said he went from second place to finish 124th at the 73rd New England Cross Country Championships after a spectator threw something into his eyes.
The initial complaint police received at 5 p.m. Saturday from Noor’s coach, Ray Putnam, was that “drugs” had been thrown into the runner’s eyes.
Cumberland police said the substance appeared to be some type of chemical, sand or dirt. “We have no substance to test,” Lt. Milton Calder said.
Calder said Tuesday that no witnesses, other than Noor, had come forward. Police were still conducting interviews with possible witnesses and he said police would be seeking a written statement from a Vermont runner who also reported sand being thrown during the race.
Police were also looking for photographs or videos of the area where the incident occurred – between the exit of Loop A to the entrance of Loop B. “You’d think there would be a lot of spectators there, with 3,000 people there,” Calder said. “It would be nice to get a phone call or an e-mail.”
He said information
can be sent to mcalder
Saturday’s 3.1-mile race included about 300 runners.
After the race, local ambulance personnel treated Noor for exhaustion and “being cold,” Putnam said. Cumberland Rescue Service officials declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.
“He was shivering and he was vomiting,” Putnam said. “His eyes were bloodshot; there was no white in his eyes at all.”
On the ride back to Lewiston, Noor told a teammate about the incident. “When he became more coherent, he was able to tell us what happened,” Putnam said. “He kept saying, ‘Somebody threw something in my eye. Somebody threw something in my eye.’”
Putnam informed George Mendros, the cross country liaison to the Maine Principals’ Association, and he left a message for Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller.
Noor entered the race as one of the favorites, and would have been a key component in Lewiston’s hopes of finishing among the top teams at the meet.
Noor got a quick start and found himself among the leaders. He was second heading into the woods. That’s where he said a short, white man wearing glasses threw something in his face. Police said the man reportedly had a green jacket or a green-type uniform, wrinkled skin and white hair.
After the incident, Noor said he struggled to see, but continued on. Lewiston teammate Sadam Abdi finished one spot ahead of Noor in 123rd and said something in Noor’s eyes hindered his running.
“He got something in his eye, and he couldn’t really see,” Abdi said. “Noor dropped back a little bit and tried to keep that spot. He ran hard.”
Putnam said Noor has achieved local hero status among his Somali community. His success has been a significant factor in creating harmony between cultures.
“We don’t know who the person was, but this person had singled him out and had the sand in his hand and was waiting for him in the woods,” Putnam said. “He must have planned this out.”
Cumberland Police Officer Peter Volk and Fuller each said the incident is not being investigated as a bias crime.
“We haven’t found a lot of racial motivation behind the incident,” Fuller said.