CLERMONT, Fla. – A noose was found hanging from a tree in front of a Black doctor’s office in Clermont, according to city officials.
Dr. Daniel Saint-Elie said an assistant at the Painalgia Relief Center on Mohawk Road found the noose hanging from a tree in front of the building on Monday morning.
“I asked her to take a picture and then I couldn’t really believe my eyes,” Sainte-Eli said. “I’ve been here three years. To me, this is a safe community.”
The employees said the noose was not there Friday.
City officials said the workers do not know of anyone who would target the business for any reason.
“The noose was found in a tree that was the closest towards the office. Next, our most immediate neighbors are a funeral home. By process of elimination, I truly feel that this was targeted towards me,” Sainte-Eli said. ”The last few weeks, I cannot think of any situation that was awkward or that was unreasonable or any patient that really stood out.”
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, according to the Clermont police.
“Words cannot express the city of Clermont’s disappointment and disgust over this apparent hate crime. The Choice of Champions stands for equality and inclusivity. We are deploying all possible resources to hold those involved in this apparent crime accountable,” Police Chief Charles Broadway said.
Saint-Eli said he’s deeply affected by the incident but will try to remain positive as he helps support his staff to move forward.
“To be in a situation like that where pain is inflicted on me and I’m supposed to be the one helping relieve pain, it’s not a good position to be in. I have to help my patients fight their pain and I will also now be fighting my own pain, as well as the staff,” he said. “As a physician, when I look at a patient, I don’t see gender, I don’t see race, I don’t see disability, I just see a human being. At the end of the day, we all have blood flowing through our veins. I feel sorry for that person to have to come to that level of hatred.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police at 352-536-8409.