The owner of a Maine store has sparked intense local and national outcry over a sign that invited customers to bet on a date when President-elect Barack Obama would be assassinated, but authorities say no charges are planned.
After the post-election incident in Standish, Maine, town officials were bombarded with angry e-mails from around the country. And on Friday, hundreds gathered at a "Rally Against Hate" in Portland to denounce the racially charged sign and to appeal for unity, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion said Friday that Steve Collins, owner of Oak Hill General Store, denied any knowledge of the "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool" sign. The sheriff added that the sign was nowhere to be found when a deputy visited the store to investigate a report of it on Nov. 7.
Dion also said posting the sign would not necessarily constitute a threat or a terrorizing incident.
The handwritten sign on an eraser board inviting the $1 bets ended with, "Let's hope someone wins," according to two journalists for The Associated Press who saw it while checking out a tip of its existence.
A description of the sign was included in an Associated Press national roundup of post-election incidents, many of them racially charged, decrying the election of the nation's first black president. That story appeared Nov. 16, bringing national attention to the controversy, the Press Herald reported.
''Whatever the intent of his expression was, we never located the evidence of it,'' Dion said in the Nov. 16 Associated Press story.
Collins told his landlord last weekend that he was going hunting and has been unreachable since. His store was closed this week, which isn't unusual this time of year, customers told the Press Herald. He has not spoken publicly about the incident and may not be aware of the publicity.
After fielding the angry e-mails, the Standish Town Council passed a resolution Thursday criticizing the sign, the Press Herald reports, and on Friday evening, Gov. John Baldacci and other state and local leaders spoke of the incident at the anti-hate rally in Portland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.