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Healthcare reform activist bites off fingertip of 65-year-old man, authorities say [Updated]

Authorities today are searching for a healthcare reform activist who they said bit off the fingertip of a 65-year-old man during a fight at a MoveOn.org rally in Thousand Oaks. 

[Updated at 5:16 p.m.: A previous version of this post reported that the activist had bitten off the finger of a counter-demonstrator. Authorities now say that only the tip of the man's finger was bitten off, and that the 65-year-old victim told them he was not demonstrating at the time of the fight.]

“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. 

[Updated at 5 p.m.: During the rally at Lynn Road and Hillcrest Drive, near the Oaks Mall, the suspect and William James Rice got into a heated argument and began fighting, Buschow said. Rice, of Newbury Park, punched the suspect after the man called him an "idiot," Buschow said.

At that point, one man bit off the the tip of Rice's left pinkie finger, Buschow said.

Rice then drove himself to Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center, about a mile away, Buschow said.  A witness picked up the detached fingertip after the suspect spit it out and drove it to the hospital. Buschow said doctors told the victim that they could not reattach the fingertip because of the high risk of infection.]

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 County Sheriff’s Department at (805) 494-8201.

—Ruben Vives

Comments () | Archives (454)

It's too bad all Republicans don't have their pinkies bitten off. It would be an easy way to identify those that you should steer very clear of. Sort of like a scarlet letter.

There is a lot of anger in this forum! You all need to take a step back and think about what you're saying! Look for your own evidence to support your views. Stop relying on your right--or left-- wing TV. Read the bill yourself!

I still have not seen anyone really address the issue of healthcare. There are facts we should be debating --not whether someone is American enough or not! Or whether someone is Libreal or Right-Wing! I want to talk about the facts.
I have concerns on BOTH sides. We're wasting time. I need to understand the facts --and how they will impact people in all walks of life. That's what we SHOULD be debating. We're doing ourselves a HUGE dis-service by wasting our time in silly arguments like this.
To be honest, I don't care if Obama is an Alien! Let's just talk about how these new regulations will impact our lives --and stick to that!

As for this violent finger-biting craziness, it simply got out of hand. End of story. Does not matter what side. It's yet another example of letting emotions control where logic should prevail.
Wake up people!!
Stop the name-calling. And, let's address the issues!

This is a tragedy.

I'm talking about the outrageous level of psychosis and paranoia showing here on these pages.

Hate gets you more hate. Don't you know that by now? There's no mystery there.

Look at you all, rising to the lure, writhing in the ecstasy of a fish about to swallow the bait that hides the hook.

If you give in to hate, you're being played. If you're following orders to hate, you're being played more. And you'd be wise to ask yourself whose will you're working.

Stop screaming and cite the facts. Show me the numbers. If it ain't in the numbers then it's nothing but opinion.

There's two sides of every story - and then there's the truth. This sounds like it was a confrontation of machismo on both sides. Violence is never okay. Please don't make this about healthcare or Obama folks.

The genius Mike Tyson is still biting when he's losing.

This time he's losing the debate about a stupid government morass that portends even higher health care costs than we have now.

Funny hos posts on the comments to this article are way more accurate in truth than the confusing, multiple update, joke of journalism above.
It would make more sense for the dishonest and obviously biased LAtimes to just completely recant the article and start over from the beginning.
I feel sorry for you folks over there on the West coast to be constantly handed such a pile of crap as this! I wouldn't waste a dime on that paper even to use for soaking up dog urine during puppy house-breaking.

Let me get this straight...the demonstrator "deserved it" if he was wagging his finger?! Are you for real? I'm guessing you're trolling for a little fun, but if you're serious then Heaven help us.

Keep drinking the cool-aid James...(eyes rolling)

This goes to show you how misguided we were to elect Obama. I really regret my vote for him. He is the worst President since George Bush, oh wait....

I guess Obama will invite them to the White House for a beer so he can help them settle their differences!

Anyone else here believe MoveOn is a b-movement, that needs to be flushed?

Did a third grader write this story? According to the article; quote "A witness picked up the detached fingertip after the suspect spit it out and drove it to the hospital." So, the suspect bit off the finger and drove it to the hospital. That was awful nice of him. I know this is not what happen because it's been on the news all day.

The proper way to write this is; "A witness picked up the detached fingertip and drove it to the hospital after the suspect spit it out." Or "The suspect spit it out. A witness picked it up and drove it to the hospital."

It's disgusting that a professional writer has such poor writing skills. Of course what can you expect from a Californian. English is a second language.

The person who had his finger bitten was actually the aggressor. William Rice had punched, kicked and knocked his smaller adversary to the ground before the tussle in which the top joint of his finger was severed. Either man could be charged with assault.

Contrary to this blog entry, Rice's appendage was reattached.


"MoveOn condemns violence in all forms"

All forms?? What about the organized violence of the state that you're asking to violently confiscate wealth from one group in order to give it to another?

james, the one claiming the old man got what he deserved, should have been aborted by his mother. yea i support abortion for many living monsters.

like biting off the hand that feeds you...

The people whose radicals bomb abortion clinics are the ones telling me to be afraid of the left because it's represented by this guy? I'm not saying this to point fingers, just to say that given the choice between the violent extremist on either side (and ALL sides have them), I'll take the biter.

One of the guys involved in this incident says there is a problem with health care...
he just can't put his finger on it.

This is a collection of the stupidest people making the stupidest comments that I could possibly imagine. With a few exceptions here and there, of course but good Lord people - how could we have fallen so far?

Political cannibilism in Kalifornia already? And they get upset when our side packs heat to these turdfests?

Question: will MoveOn.Org now be changing its name to BiteOff.Org?

Another question: Le Cannibal Politique is described as a "health care activist." Isn't that a funny way of showing it?.

Third question: Did he spit it out because it didn't taste good, or there was too much bone to chew?

Fourth and mercifully, final question: When are both sides in this contest of world views going to wake up and realize that unless somebody backs off, (and I prefer that the "you will do what what we say" crowd do the backing off, because the "leave us the hell alone" crowd isn't likely to) this can lead to civil war? When the first shots are fired? This is not about health care, it IS about political control vs individual liberty. People have been shot over such questions in the past -- many, many people, in fact. And if you think civil war can't come to this country, you're whistling past the graveyard of history.

why don't the Obamacare people worry more about how Michelle Obama wears inappropriate clothing...rather than biting old people's pinky off...

The liberal left has always been the aggressor of violence. Obama has stated that he wants a revolution on our streets and the left will follow like sheep headed to the slaughter house.

Wait a second, what country do we live in? "He deserved it?...He better be thankful he had Medicare for treatment." What the hell is wrong with you people??!! Did you not forget that that Americans have the right to the First Amendment? Little do you know the guy who bit off the finger was probably some paid psychopath goon provocateur. You people deserve eugenics planned healthcare. Maybe when you have a heart attack and you're given an aspirin for treatment, you might remember your self-righteous hatred.

If you suckerpunch someone in the face exercising their right to free speech at a political rally, you should feel lucky to only lose a digit on your pinky. This incident has nothing to do with healthcare reform and everything to do with Rice using violence to try to suppress someone's first amendment rights. Rice has admitted to throwing the first punch, big surprise, if you punch someone, they fight back.

I agree with annonymous I heard the same thing on the Rush Limbaugh/Mark Styne radio show. The moveon.org lady was talking about tens of thousands of pro Obama supporters - the witness said there were about 100 Obama suppoters. My wife heard the old guy on the radio 9/3/09 PM and he admitted that the goon accousted him but the old guy said he punched the goon first. The old guy came clean where is the goon?

Here is a picture of both men. The bitee is on the left in khacki.


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