Wayne State police investigate racist graffiti

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Wayne State police are reviewing surveillance video after someone scrawled racist graffiti in a bathroom and in two other spots on campus.

School President M. Roy Wilson sent an email to students Friday informing them of the discovery of the three hateful messages. He stressed school officials are taking the incident seriously.

“I always find such behavior abhorrent, but I am deeply disappointed this has happened at Wayne State, where we embrace and respect our differences and strive to live by our values of diversity and inclusion,” Wilson wrote. “Such actions will not be tolerated. Not only are they detestable; they are criminal.”

Wayne State Police Chief Tony Holt told The News his officers are poring through video for clues.

“We want to send out the message that we’re going to jump on this immediately and stay on it,” he said. “We’ll use every resource to find out who did this, and we’re going to monitor certain places on campus.”

Holt said if his officers nab the guilty party, he will seek charges of malicious destruction of property, and possibly hate crime charges. “Whatever we can get them charged with, we’ll pursue it,” he said.

Holt added he didn’t want to reveal what the graffiti said, or where it was written, citing the ongoing investigation.

Similar incidents of hateful graffiti have been reported on several college campuses, including multiple incidents at Eastern Michigan University last year. Meanwhile, the FBI was called this week to investigate hateful emails sent to students at the University of Michigan. The emails were forged to look like they’d been send by a college professor, officials said.

Holt said he’s aware several reported instances of hateful speech and graffiti, both in Michigan and across the country, have turned out to be false, and said he’s not ruling out that possibility.

This week at Wisconsin’s Beloit College, a student was arrested after allegedly spray-painting an anti-Muslim message in his dormitory, and then falsely reporting someone else had done it. In December, police said a UM student lied when she claimed a man threatened to set her hijab on fire. Also last year, a woman was charged with making a false police report after she fabricated a plot to blow up Dearborn Fordson High School. The case was reduced to a misdemeanor, according to the Third Circuit Court website.

“I’m aware of another incident in West Bloomfield, where a report of a racial comment turned out to be false,” Holt said. “But it doesn’t matter what the motivation was; whoever did this will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

In his email to students, Wilson said he learned of the graffiti on social media.

“In these times of change and uncertainty, passion is understandable, but hatred and violence are not,” he wrote. “This is our university, and we all play a role in its progress, not only through our own success but also through the support and success of others.”

Anyone with information is asked to call campus police at (313) 577-2222.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

@GeorgeHunter_DN