Manny DeBrito, the head of New Bedford’s Board of Election Commissioners, said he’d seen the young man all the time at City Hall, often strolling in to use the bathroom. He said he’d say hello to him, never getting much response, but sensing something troubling. 

“I always had a bad feeling,” DeBrito said. “My intuition was obviously right.”

The young man, Franklin Garcia, 24, whose last address was in Lakeville, was arrested and charged with assault by the New Bedford Police after a confrontation with DeBrito outside City Hall on Nov. 19 that DeBrito said he considers a “hate crime.”

No official determination has been made about it being a hate crime, said Lt. Scott Carola, spokesman for the New Bedford Police. Carola confirmed that Garcia was arrested at about 11 a.m. on Nov. 19 and charged with assault, and that the question of a hate crime is “under review.” 

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Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, said that at the Police Department’s request, their office is looking at the report of the incident “to determine if any other charges are appropriate.” He could not say how long that process is likely to take. 

DeBrito, 48, and in his sixth year in the position, said in an interview that the young man spit in his face, threatened to kill him and used a racial slur. 

“I consider it a hate crime,” DeBrito said, as the suspect threatened to kill him and used the N-word. “It’s happened a few other times in my life,” said DeBrito, meaning the racial insults. 

He said people should understand that incidents like this happen all the time. Not being racist is not enough, said DeBrito, who is of Cape Verdean ancestry. He urged people to be assertively anti-racist in not tolerating this sort of behavior. 

He said in an interview that he was at City Hall that Saturday morning 11 days after the election in a meeting room with a crew of three staff members finishing the processing of about 100 ballots. 

The building was open that day to anyone who wanted to watch the ballot count, and the door on the William Street side was open. Otherwise, the building was closed.

At one point a custodian told DeBrito that someone was trying to get into the building to use the bathroom, and started cursing and threatening him when told the building was closed. 

DeBrito said he told the custodian he could lock the door, and accompanied him to the door. There he saw the man outside on William Street, near the New Bedford Free Public Library wearing a hoodie, carrying a skateboard. 

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DeBrito said he stepped outside to say that the building was closed.

“That’s when the racial slurs” started, DeBrito said. He said he walked toward the man. 

“You don’t know how to react,” said DeBrito, when asked why he approached the man. “Pride gets in the way, having someone yell those words at you.”

But he said he thought about his wife, his three children, how much there would be to lose in going too far. 

“I was able to cool myself and not do anything” more aggressive than walking toward the man. 

DeBrito said he approached the man as he walked toward Pleasant Street. DeBrito said he started laughing at the young man. 

“That’s when he yelled ‘I’ll kill you, you [racial slur].” At that point, he was close to the suspect, close enough so that when the young man spit at him, some of it hit DeBrito’s eyes, DeBrito said. 

The young man took off. DeBrito called the police and an ambulance. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital to have his eyes flushed out and to have blood drawn to make sure he had not been infected by the saliva.

New Bedford Election Commissioner Manuel DeBrito. Credit: Joanna McQuillan Weeks / The New Bedford Light

Carola said a full police report has been submitted to the City Solicitor’s Office for review before it can be released. He said Garcia was arrested on the assault charge and two unrelated warrants, but he could not elaborate on those charges.

Nicholas DeMarco of the City Solicitor’s Office said screening material for information that cannot be released publicly is a routine part of the document release process and could take up to two weeks. 

Olivia Melo, director of the New Bedford Free Public Library, said she knows of the young man accused in this incident and has seen him smoking on the library steps. She’s seen her share of unruly behavior by people at the library, she said. 

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” said Melo, who has worked in public libraries for 35 years. But the incident DeBrito experienced, she said, was over the line. 

“Manny’s a good guy,” she said. “He shouldn’t have had this happen to him.”

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1 Comment

  1. Sadden to read about the incident involving the Election Commissioner. Unless laws have changed the use of the racial slur is a violation of his Civil Rights as for nothing else but hate speech.

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