Education

Police investigating after homophobic slur keyed into car parked at SIUE dorm

Police were investigating this week after a homophobic slur was keyed into the hood of a student’s car at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, one year after a note with a racial slur was left on a student’s door.

SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll said detectives still haven’t found who left the note on a black student’s apartment door back in September 2017.

The most recent incident was reported to campus police on Monday. Schmoll said police believe it happened between 6 and 9 p.m. on Sept. 24 in the parking lot of Evergreen Hall, one of the student dorms.

Officers believe that on that same night racial and anti-gay slurs were written on another car with a personal care item, such as deodorant or a hairstyling product.

The incident is being investigated as criminal damage to property, as well as a violation of SIUE’s student conduct code, rather than a hate crime because the owners of the cars didn’t feel like the messages were directed at them, Schmoll said.

The consequences for a student conduct code violation range from a warning to being kicked out of school.

Another student found a racial slur on a piece of paper taped to his license plate in a separate incident Monday. Police believe someone he knows “did it as a prank,” according to Schmoll.

“Prank or not, communication between individuals can be hurtful to others regardless of the original intent,” university officials wrote in an email to students. “... Hurtful words and comments based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation should never occur.”

Police investigated the 2017 note as a hate crime and planned to file charges, but have yet to identify a suspect. Schmoll estimated that four detectives spent about 170 hours of investigative time working on it.

In both cases with the slurs left on the door and keyed into the car, Schmoll said surveillance video footage wasn’t available. Students who might have witnessed the incidents were interviewed, but they didn’t provide any useful information for officers.

The department is asking students, faculty and staff to reach out to police if they hear someone bragging about the incidents or read it on social media, according to Schmoll.

“We’re going to need the university community to help,” he said.

Campus deals with racial issues

In the months after the racial slur was left on the door last year, students also found a message written on a classroom chalkboard referring to black people as non-citizens and flyers for a white supremacist group around campus.

Officials said at the time that they didn’t approve the flyers, and they removed as many as they could.

SIUE Police investigated the chalkboard message, but didn’t find who wrote it.

Schmoll said there was nothing illegal about what was written on the chalkboard, but it could have been a violation of the student conduct code.

Other campuses in Illinois have reportedly been dealing with similar issues.

In September, white supremacist flyers were found on car windshields at John A. Logan College, according to WSIL. The news stations also reported that flyers were posted at Southern Illinois University Carbondale accusing a student of being a Nazi and trying to recruit others.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes
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