Wrong man attacked in vigilante injustice

CENTER CITY - June 5, 2009 The case of 26-year-old Michael Zenquis is a disturbing reminder of what can happen when the police search for a child rapist fuels a potent intoxicant of street justice and an innocent victim is caught in its web.

"He calls me by my nickname, he says 'Romeo, we need to speak to you, we need to talk to you for a second, I got something to show you,'" Zenquis said.

Michael says it was Monday afternoon and he was walking home at Ontario and Argyle Streets when he was suddenly attacked by 5 or 6 people, some of whom he knew from the neighborhood.

"Out of nowhere, I just start getting hit with sticks; I get hit with a baseball bat on my back. I was just getting stomped, I was just getting beat up for at least 45 seconds before I knew what was going on," Zenquis said.

It wasn't until then that he knew why he was being pummeled when someone yelled, 'You raped that little girl!.'

"I kept yelling, I'm innocent, I didn't do anything, I don't know what's going on," Zenquis said. "They were just calling me, 'Rapist! You deserve to die!' They were saying, 'Kill him, kill him!', and it was just too much."

Five days since the attack, Zenquis is still marred with the bruises left from the vicious and brutal attack, on his eye where he was hit with a stick, on his back where he was hit with a baseball bat, his left shoulder, and his left foot which was bandaged up tonight.

"It still hurts a lot; I'm still going through a lot of pain here," Zenquis said.

Police officers took him to the hospital and then the special victims unit, where detectives realized he was not the guy they were looking for and let him go. He says he feels terrible for the little girl that was raped and understands the anger people felt, but:

"They shouldn't have took the law into their own hands, ok? Because look, they got the wrong guy. What if they would have killed me? Then what?" Zenquis said.

Further, he believes after he was beat up, police had a responsibility to warn the public not to take matters into their own hands.

"Me being beat up like that, they should have done something about it, because I was on the ground, I was bleeding and I was hurt. I think the police should have done something about it cause they knew I was beat up," Zenquis said.

After being prompted by his family, Zenquis says he went to East Detectives on Wednesday and identified two of his assailants from a photo lineup. He wants to press charges not just because of what happened to him, but for the next person who could be mistaken for a vicious criminal.

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