November 14, 2003

CUPD Seeks Evidence In Alleged Hate Crime

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The Cornell University Police Department is investigating an assault that occurred following the Ludacris and Nappy Roots concert at Barton Hall on Sunday evening.

A female Cornell junior has reported being attacked by a group of five females and one male, resulting in a ruptured ear drum, 13 stitches on her lower lip and other cuts and bruises. The victim, who is white, said the attack was a hate crime and identified the alleged assailants as African American.

“It was right outside Barton, right in front of the doors under the lights. The girls asked me to go to the parking lot, but I didn’t want to,” the victim, who asked not to be identified, told The Sun yesterday afternoon.

A police officer responded to the incident at 11:47 Sunday evening, appearing the next day in the CUPD’s morning report. The incident has since been under investigation.

“We are investigating the incident. We have two investigators and a lieutenant working on it,” said Capt. Curtis Ostrander, deputy director of the CUPD.

The victim alleges that the assault outside of Barton was committed by individuals who had confronted her while still at the concert.

“Two of them punched me during the concert and that got broken up,” she said.

The CUPD began questioning witnesses on Tuesday, according to Linda Grace-Kobas, interim vice president for communications and media relations. Police do not yet know if the alleged assailants were students or local residents.

According to Grace-Kobas, a police officer was responding to a separate call when the incident occurred. The officer went to the victim’s assistance, bringing her to the emergency medical services team in Barton Hall assembled for the concert.

“This is a very serious incident. The University will do everything it can to support the investigation,” Grace-Kobas said.

As part of the investigation, the victim has been working with the CUPD to identify the assailants.

“All week I’ve been helping the police to make up composites,” she said. “Obviously, we want to find out who these people are.”

The sponsors of the concert, the Cornell Concert Commission, the African Latino Asian Native American Programming Board and the Minority Concert Fund Advisory Board, all refused to comment to The Sun.

The CUPD has pursued other leads through their investigation.

“We do have a few leads. You have to follow down all the leads and cross-check your sources in a case like this. We are pursuing it aggressively,” Ostrander said.

Because the assault may have been racially motivated, a bias-related incident report has been filed with the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality. A bias-related incident report differs from a bias crime report, “which would be a crime perpetrated solely on the basis of race or discrimination,” Ostrander said. “We don’t think that was the case, but because of some statements that were said, a bias incident report was filed.”

According to Robert L. Harris Jr., vice provost for diversity and faculty development, the assault would be determined a bias crime if “the assailants are identified and it is determined that a crime has been committed.”

Lynette Chappell-Williams, director of the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality, explained the reporting process.

“A report is completed and faxed into our office. … We share the information with a group of administrators from throughout the University,” she said. “Part of the effort is to make sure the individual who experienced the bias gets connected to the proper resources in the University.”

According to Chappell-Williams, “the victim has been connected with someone from our response team.” According to Grace-Kobas, Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67 is in contact with the victim’s family.

It is the responsibility of this counselor to refer the victim to “all of those kinds of things that might be helpful,” she added. These resources can include the victim advocate and the Counseling and Psychological Services office.

The victim and CUPD are hoping that more information will be obtained from witnesses.

“If people saw [the assailants] better than me, maybe they can do a better job describing them to the police,” the victim said.

Anyone with additional information about the attack or the assailants are asked to contact the Cornell Police at 255-1111.

Archived article by Marc Zawel