MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A black Kansas man has admitted he put racist graffiti on his own car as a Halloween prank that got out of hand, police said Monday.
Photographs posted on social media Wednesday showed the car covered with racial slurs against blacks and messages that included “Go Home,” “Date your own kind,” and “Die.”
The vehicle, covered in graffiti scrawled with washable paint, was parked Wednesday at an apartment complex near Kansas State University and the incident fueled racial tensions at the university and in the community.
An emergency meeting of the Black Student Union called that evening drew concerned administrators and community leaders as well as students. Kansas State held a Facebook Live event the next day with worried parents. The university stepped up patrols on campus. The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into a possible hate crime.
But on Monday the Riley County Police Department issued a news release saying the 21-year-old owner of the vehicle, Dauntarius Williams, had told investigators that he was responsible for the graffiti.
Authorities concluded that charging him for filing a false report would “not be in the best interests of the citizens” of Manhattan.
Even the possibility of a hate crime has a big impact on the fabric of daily lives, and “we want to acknowledge that people felt anger and pain as a result of pictures and words that they saw,” Kansas State University spokesman Jeff Morris said Monday in a phone interview. “Those are very real responses.”
The school’s Black Student Union, however, is calling for criminal charges against Williams, saying it was “appalled, digusted and hurt” by the false report. The group said the fact that an African-American man was involved should not diminish its effect on students, and urged authorities to reconsider pressing charges.
Given the climate in the country, the university plans to continue its stepped up patrols and its review into whether more cameras are needed to enhance safety on campus.
“The incident maybe wasn’t real — the emotions were,” Morris said.
Police said Williams was “genuinely remorseful and expressed sincere regret” that his actions resulted in negative media attention, and the agency issued a statement from him in their release in which he apologized to the community.
“The whole situation got out of hand when it shouldn’t have even started,” Williams said. “It was just a Halloween prank that got out of hand. I wish I could go back to that night but I can’t. I just want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the pain and news I have brought you all.”
Police said they recognized the difficulties the case created.
“While William’s mistake had a decidedly negative impact on the community, please recognize that he, like many of us when we were young, is a young man who made a mistake and is now doing his best to own up to it,” said Brad Schoen, director of the Riley County Police Department.
The hoax came on the heels of a string of incidents at the school.
Last month, an anti-gay slur was found outside the university student union. In September, white supremacist fliers were found on campus. And in May, a noose was found hanging from a campus tree. No arrests have been made in these incidents.
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