In response to the Feb. 7 incident at Kresge College that is being investigated as a hate crime, about 80 people gathered in Kresge Town Hall to support the UC Santa Cruz and LGBT community in an event called “Strength Through Solidarity” on Wednesday. In addition to students, the directors of all four ethnic resource centers were in attendance.
“We’ve always been united but today showed that if something happens to our community we can come together in a peaceful manner without violence,” said one of the organizers for the event, Jaire Loggins. “We want to get our voices heard and to stand up for what we believe in and for others no matter what their identity.”
Two men were arrested by UC Santa Cruz Police Department (UCSC PD) officers on Feb. 7 at 12:38 a.m. after a fight occurred near the Kresge apartments. Arrests were made on suspicion of battery, obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct. The men, a UCSC student and a mutual friend who was visiting, are now out of Santa Cruz County Jail. The incident is under investigation as a hate crime.
According to the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office, any charges against the student are still pending as of Feb. 18.
A community crime bulletin was emailed Feb. 11, stating that “follow up investigation and interviews revealed the fight broke out because one or more of the suspects perceived that one or more of the victims belonged to a protected classification.”
The protected classifications include disability, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity and religion. However, the student arrested for this crime said he was not aware of this accusation until the bulletin was released.
UCSC News and Media Relations Director Scott Hernandez-Jason said the four male victims in the bulletin were all students and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Multiple student sources who witnessed the fight said one of the students injured was targeted because of his sexual orientation.
Witnesses said the targeted victim was punched once, fell to the ground and appeared unresponsive. Shannon, who preferred to go by his first name, was one of the victims of this incident and is friends with the direct victim of the hate crime. He said the victim of the hate crime had his wrist broken in three places and shattered in one place, a couple of broken knuckles, a fractured jaw, a dislocated hip and a minor concussion after the fight. Shannon also suffered a broken nose during the fight.
“When [the victim of the hate crime] was with the doctor, the doctor said if the force applied to his hip was applied to his head, he would have died instantly,” Shannon said.
The arrested student’s friend said there were at least three people actively fighting when UCSC PD officers arrived. Police Chief Nader Oweis said four officers were at the scene, but declined to comment further on any details from the incident because the investigation is ongoing.
“When the police got there I was all mad and defensive and everything, and it didn’t turn out well,” the student arrested said. “Right when they got there I was being grabbed and everything. I was singled out as soon as they got there, I wasn’t even the only one fighting.”
The student arrested said he suffered injuries like bruises and scrapes as a result of allegedly defending himself and getting pushed to the ground. He maintains that he wasn’t the one saying derogatory comments while fighting, or doing anything else that could be interpreted as a hate crime.
Oweis said that while there were about 30 students in the area, most of the students dispersed when the police officers arrived.
A friend of the student arrested said the night started out with friends of theirs, along with his friend from out of town and two of his friends who the student arrested hadn’t met before, drinking at his apartment at Kresge. Students in the apartment next door also had people over, and the residents invited him and his friends over.
When that party ended, people reassembled in the arrested student’s apartment. Minutes later, the student’s friend said the student arrested asked people in his apartment to leave because they were smoking inside. Shannon said he and his friends were never in his apartment, and didn’t smoke cigarettes. The student arrested said there were about 15 people in his residence who refused to cooperate when asked to leave.
“In the midst of them leaving, someone started to say something to [the student arrested] and from what I saw, that kid got into [his] face pretty hard, I saw his body angled forward at him, and that’s when the fight broke out,” she said. “[The bulletin] makes it seem like the fight was one-sided when there were two parties, both of them coming at each other, but it wasn’t one-sided.”
Shannon said he and his friends were standing outside saying, “I don’t want to fight” repeatedly, when the student arrested was trying to pick a fight.
“[The student arrested] was throwing homophobic slurs out the door and asking us if we were gay and said, ‘You better not be gay, that’s not okay, you better not be gay, you better tell me right now,’ and then knocked [the victim of the alleged hate crime] out and kept on kicking him on the ground,” Shannon said. “It’s no longer a fight at that point. The motive was clearly hate.”
The student arrested believes he was misidentified. He said the incident reports shown to him by Judicial Affairs describe a male with ear gauges as the one who punched the targeted victim, and the student arrested said he does not have ear gauges. His friend said the person responsible for the hate crime was described as a white male with brown hair, facial hair, blue eyes and ear gauges — a similar description to that of the male arrested, the difference being the earrings.
“I honestly think I’m being misidentified with one of my guests who I didn’t really know, honestly, to be dead honest with you,” the student arrested said. “I haven’t even spoken to the police about it, and the people at the school are identifying me, like ‘so-and-so said they saw someone with a ponytail and you.’ I was not next to the kid with the ponytail, I was at least 20 feet away.”
Multiple students suggested the student arrested has a history of violent, aggressive behavior, which he denies.
“People are making it seem like I did all these bad things, it’s catching me off guard a little bit,” he said in response to accusations of prior violence. “I know what I’m responsible for, but the things that are on the bulletin and everything, I am not responsible for that. I know I’m not.”
After the incident early Saturday morning, the student arrested said he was forced to temporarily move to a room at Porter College, and a day later, move off campus completely because he was still considered a threat. Kresge College Administrative Officer Mike Yamauchi-Gleason would not comment on this claim. The student arrested is in the process of appealing his suspension.
The day after the incident, the anonymous friend of the student arrested said at least five of the people from the Kresge apartment next door to that of the arrested student’s apartment “came banging on doors, banging on glass doors outside the apartment and kicked the compost bin that they had outside toward one of his roommates doors” and were looking for the student arrested.
She said they have since denied that occurrence. Shannon said these people were not from the apartment next door.
In an email statement to all students, Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway said, “I want to assure the campus community that we are investigating this hate-crime allegation with the seriousness it deserves.”
All other attempts to reach out to other individuals involved in this incident were unsuccessful.
The investigation is ongoing and interviews continue to be conducted by the police. Police Chief Oweis asks for anyone with information surrounding the incident to contact the UCSC PD.
Contributing reporting by Diana Dolloff