(This article ran May 8, 1981, a week after the murder attempt. It was accompanied by a very large, 7-inch by 9-inch, photograph of the Miller Junk & Waste Company lot and the crane with a boxed close-up of the hook.The caption reads, The crane used in the lynching attempt on 37-year-old Robert Henderson lies dormant in the junk yard at the Miller Waste Co. in Lancaster, PA.A close-up view of the hook the assailants attempted to use to hang Henderson by the rectum is shown at right. I saw this headline on a newsstand at Broad and Allegheny Streets in Philadelphia.It changed my life.)
Man critical after
Lancaster lynching try
Crane hook, vent pipe
used in vicious attack
By Gwen McKinney
(Of The Tribune Staff)
Lancaster police are investigating the brutal assault of a 37-year-old Black man who was forced to sit on the vent pipe of a 100-gallon oil tank by three unidentified white assailants.
Robert Leslie Henderson, a Lancaster resident, remains in serious condition at the intensive care unit of St. Josephs Hospital.He reportedly suffered extensive internal injuries from the assault last Friday (May 1) that police have termed an impaling.
Henderson was found at approximately by an employee at the MertanTruckRepairServiceCenter, where the assault occurred several hours earlier.Police said the man reported that he was abducted at gunpoint by three white males.Hendersons assailants made him disrobe and attempted to hang him by his rectum from a crane hook in a nearby junkyard, police said.
The victim was then taken to the truck service area.Still held at gunpoint, the assailants forced Henderson to sit on a vent pipe, approximately seven inches in length and four inches in diameter, of a large oil tank, police said.
Capt. Luther Henry, head of a detective unit, said no suspect has been arrested in the case.Although police initially suspected racial motivation, Henry stated that the investigation suggests other motives.
We have not ruled out racial motivation, but were moving away from that theory, the captain said.We now believe that the case may have involved retaliation of some kind.
The victim has been questioned by investigators, who have found many discrepancies in his story, Henry said.
Attempts to contact Henderson for comment were unsuccessful.
The possibility of racial tension in the Lancaster area as a result of this incident is being closely monitored, according to Lancaster Human Relations Director Patrick Kenney, who stated that the assault has not spurred other racial confrontations.
As we can observe, Lancaster does not appear to have a tension situation, Kenney noted.The relationship in the community is as good as you can expect.Until we can gain more information from the victim, there is not much we can do.
But the proximity of Lancaster to Harrisburg and York, neighboring cities on the southern fringe of central Pennsylvania, is cause for concern according to Frank Tyler, regional representative of the U.S. Justice Department Community Relations Office.
Sometimes situations can be transferable, commented Tyler of the Lancaster assault.If you draw a total profile, there is a lot of uneasiness in the Harrisburg-York area.
Informed of the Lancaster incident by the Tribune,Tyler announced that the situation there would be investigated by his agency.Law enforcement officials in the York area, some 20 miles south of Lancaster, are monitoring Ku Klux Klan activity and rumors of an upcoming rally, Tyler added.
Tyler also noted that there is still a great deal of community concern over unresolved complaints involving Harrisburg police officers who were distributing KKK medallions within the police force.