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French woman recounts assault by Baumhammers

Saturday, May 06, 2000

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A French woman who says Richard Baumhammers punched her in the head because he thought she was Jewish also says he told police he was mentally ill.

Vivianne Le Garrac, 50, of Paris, said in an interview yesterday that she was rescued six months ago by two plainclothes Paris police officers who were visiting Le Relais Littre, a cafe she owns on the city's Left Bank.

Le Garrac said Baumhammers visited her cafe in October, drank two glasses of wine, stared at her and her bartender, and then left after three hours.

He returned the next day, she said, and, as she passed by him, reached out and hit her.

"He punched me on the forehead. I've never felt so humiliated. There were people in the cafe. It was completely out of the blue," Le Garrac said.

Police said Baumhammers was cited for a minor crime because Le Garrac was not badly injured.

According to both police and Le Garrac, Baumhammers said he punched the woman because he thought she was Jewish. Le Garrac, who is not Jewish, also said Baumhammers told police he was mentally ill.

Police took Baumhammers for evaluation to the psychiatric ward of the Hotel Dieu, a Parish hospital, then detained him at a police station. By week's end, he left on a flight for Spain.

One week ago French television reported on Baumhammers' arrest, after he was charged with a two-hour rampage in which he is accused of killing a Jewish neighbor, an Indian grocer, two Asian restaurant workers and an African American karate student.

Le Garrac said the telephone at her cafe rang. It was one of the two detectives who she said wrestled Baumhammers against a wall and took him away from her shop.

"Did you see that guy? It's your attacker. He's on TV. He killed five people," Le Garrac said.

"I'm really angry at French justice for not doing anything."

Freelance translator Cecile Desandre contributed to this report.

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