UPDATE: UDPD investigation finds no racial display
BY EDITOR IN CHIEF
AND , MANAGING NEWS EDITOR
UPDATE 4:10 p.m. After the UD Alert went out to the community at 12:32 a.m. this morning, university chief of police Patrick Ogden said 8 students called in to clarify that the noose-like objects had been seen in the tree prior to last night. As a result, the hate-crime investigation has been declared unfounded.
“We’re 100 percent confident that this was not an intentional act,” Ogden said.
He said the 8 students who contacted UDPD did not necessarily know each other.
A female student called in between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. saying she had unintentionally caused the incident. She had pulled 3 paper lanterns off the tree during Alumni Weekend while standing on an upturned trash can, Andrea Boyle of Office of Communications & Public Affairs said. The rope and wire—which were used to hang the lanterns—must have been left behind when she pulled the lanterns down.
This means the items resembling nooses were not placed in the tree last night, but they have been hanging since June.
When asked how these items went unnoticed for so long, Ogden said there are many things people walk by on campus that they don’t think twice about. The rope and wire were also hanging 8 to 12 feet in the air, almost concealed by leaves.
Police cadets who are also students reported seeing the wires at least on Sept. 1 or Sept. 8 while during campus patrols on The Green, so they could not have been related to Monday’s #BlackLivesMatter protest.
Additionally, on Sept. 16 a picture of the scene was posted to Facebook with the tag “remnants of an engineer.” Ogden said a student had noticed the rope and wire hanging from the tree and guessed an engineering student had been working on a project in the area. This was one of the students who contacted police last night.
With all these reports, by 6 a.m. this morning UDPD was able to say with complete assurance the incident was not intentional.
Ogden said social media took on a life of its own in response to this incident last night. While the Jeanne Clery Act requires police by federal law to alert students of crimes such as murder and sexual assault, harassment and hate crimes do not fall under the classifications. Still police felt it best to alert the community of the happenings outside Mitchell Hall.
“Had we not put the alert out, we might still be investigating this as a hate crime,” Ogden said.
At 4:30 p.m. Acting President Nancy Targett will lead a university gathering in response to the incidents of the last 24 hours.
UPDATE 11:07 a.m. After an overnight investigation, the university police department has determined the apparent nooses were actually the remnants of lanterns that had been hanging in the tree for some time, from a previous event on The Green.
“We received several reports from students who said they had seen the materials hanging in the tree,” UDPD Chief Ogden said. “I am confident that we have determined the origin of these items.”
Acting President Nancy Targett announced the investigation results in an early morning email, but said the university’s gathering, organized for 4:30 p.m. today in reaction to the perceived “hate crime”, would go on as scheduled.
ORIGINAL STORY :Three items resembling nooses were found hanging from a tree outside of Mitchell Hall on Tuesday night.
Crudely made with rope and bent wire-hangers, they were discovered by sophomore Harry Lewis, who passed by them while walking along The Green. The nooses were hanging from a large tree on the same patch of grass where Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered Monday night to protest Katie Pavlich, a gun rights advocate who was speaking in Mitchell Hall.
“We are both saddened and disturbed that this deplorable act has taken place on our campus,” Acting President Nancy Targett said in a statement Tuesday night. “This hateful display stands in stark contrast to Monday night’s peaceful protest and discussion. We condemn this despicable action and ask everyone in our community to stand together against intolerance and hate. We encourage anyone with information to contact UD Police at 302-831-2222.”
According to the statement, university police are investigating this as a hate crime.
After Lewis spread photos on social media, a small group of students, some barely holding back tears, gathered around the tree talking to responding police officers. Many of the students had been present or had organized the previous night’s protests.
University of Delaware police officers who were on the scene refused to comment directly on the situation. Lewis said he saw something metallic hanging from the tree while walking, and said when he went to take a closer look he saw ropes as well.
“It looked like they were in the shape of a noose,” Lewis said. “Immediately, I jumped to thinking about what happened yesterday with the Black Lives Matter protest, and it seemed, to me, very apparent there was a connection, putting it right outside of Mitchell Hall particularly.”
Lewis said he then called Jeremy Mathis, one of the organizers of the protests yesterday as well as a personal friend, to tell him of the discovery. Subsequently, he called UDPD.
Mathis, a prominent black campus activist, said he did not believe it when Lewis first told him what he had seen, particularly after he thought last night’s protests had been a success based on feedback from university administrators.
“This is not acceptable by any standards,” Mathis said. “[The police officer] is over here telling us that we shouldn’t tell people about it because it’s ‘triggering’, but you know what our campus needs to know? That racism exists on our campus and that it’s not going away unless we talk about it.”
The organizers of the Pavlich lecture, Students for the Second Amendment, issued the following statement to The Review through their president, senior Tyler Yzaguirre:
“Students for the Second Amendment condemn this appalling act. We will support and stand by the University and all of its students in finding the perpetrators, and bringing them to justice.”
Police on scene told the group of students the university does not have surveillance cameras on that part of The Green. Mathis said he did not want to make assumptions or accusations about those responsible for the nooses, though he said he felt the act was directly aimed at the protesters.
“What did UD say in return to us saying our lives had value?” Mathis said through tears. “That we deserve to hang from a tree. That my body means nothing to them. That I don’t have rights, that I don’t have feelings, that I’m not a person. Because that’s what a tree means to us.”
The university community received the first UD Alert about the situation at 12:32 a.m. It termed the incident a “racist display” and encouraged members of the community to walk in groups and use university buses or the walking escort services.
This is a developing story that will be updated as more details become available. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org