Aaron Frey waves to state senators after he was elected for a second term as Maine's Attorney General in 2018. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Editors note: The attorney generals office has reviewed this case and has declined to pursue hate crimes charges.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A white woman allegedly tried to drive into a Black man and his two nephews in a Presque Isle parking lot in a case that officials are investigating as a possible hate crime, police said.

The news comes amid a rise in racially motivated crimes throughout the state, with the number of hate crimes quadrupling over the past year. There were 83 reported hate crimes in 2020, more than the previous three years combined.

Michael Stiggle, 50, a Black man who lives in Mars Hill where he owns barbecue restaurant Timberwolves, said a woman driving an orange car tried to hit him and his two nephews Chandler, 23, and Chase Dixon, 19, when they got out of their vehicle in the Walmart parking lot.

“The next thing I recall is her flooring the gas, and I remember jumping out of the way because she went to hit us,” Stiggle said.

The car’s driver Marissa Wright, 28, of Blaine later posted on Facebook that Stiggle and his nephews had sexually assaulted her and that Stiggle had his hand down his pants. Both Stiggle and Chandler Nixon said that Stiggle was fixing his belt when he exited his vehicle.

Wright and Stiggle each filed police reports. After reviewing security camera footage, the Presque Isle Police Department determined that Wright’s allegations were false and she would be charged with driving to endanger.

“Upon investigation, it was found that not only were the allegations against Timberwolves unfounded, but also led to pending vehicular charges against the complainant,” Presque Isle Police Chief Laurie Kelly said.

While a criminal charge in Maine cannot be enhanced by labeling it a hate crime, a person can bring civil litigation to the attorney general’s office if they feel they were targeted for their race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation. Presque Isle police has sent its investigation information to the Office of the Attorney General for review, Kelly said.

Both Stiggle and Chandler Nixon said that by sharing their story, they hoped to highlight what they said was a culture in Aroostook County that is resistant to diversity. According to census estimates, Aroostook is 93 percent non-Hispanic white and Black people make up just 1.2 percent of the population.

“I feel like I get 20 percent of the value of a human living in The County, from all the experiences that I’ve had,” Stiggle said. “There’s some really nice people in The County as well, but I’ve been really hurt from some of the experiences that I’ve had here that have injured me on a spiritual level.”