This article originally appeared in ZU News.
Updated: Feb. 27, 2018
On Feb. 16, students, staff and faculty of Azusa Pacific received an email update from the Department of Campus Safety (DCS) stating an alleged hate crime occurring last semester may have been a false report. The original complaint came from a student who claimed that racial slurs were written on his vehicle while parked on campus and provided video evidence of the vandalism.
Here is an excerpt from the email:
“The DCS team immediately notified the Azusa Police Department (APD) given the use of the racial slur and the potential of a directed hate crime since the reporting student is African American. APD responded to the scene and took over the criminal investigation. Over the past months, DCS has assisted APD with the investigation, arranging interviews and reviewing available video in order to conduct a fair and thorough investigation.
The Azusa Police Department (APD) advised DCS that the District Attorney’s Office filed the following criminal charge against the original reporting person: ‘making a false report of a crime when the person reporting the false crime knows it to be false.’”
The District Attorney’s Office issued two misdemeanor charges against the student in relation to the incident. According to court records from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the student appeared in court on Feb. 20 and plead “not guilty” to both charges during the arraignment.
Here is a portion of an email update sent to the APU community in November 2017 as details were first emerging about the incident:
“On Friday, September 15, 2017, DCS received a report of an alleged vandalism/hate crime incident where a racial slur was written repeatedly on a vehicle parked on campus and allegedly directed at the owner of the vehicle. The DCS team immediately notified the Azusa Police Department (APD). APD responded to the scene and took over the criminal investigation which is still in progress.”
According to the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, “the court finds good cause due to the victim’s conviction of making false claims and mitigating circumstances to allow the defendant to remain on own-recognizance release.”
The next pretrial hearing is set for March 19.
Kimberly Battle-Walters Denu, vice president and chief diversity officer at APU, said that the most recent update does not erase the damage of what happened last semester.
“The DA’s charge of filing a false police report does not negate other incidents that have occurred or the hurt that has resulted,” Denu said. “Our work to better our campus must and will continue.”
Denu’s office hosted multiple events last semester for students and faculty to cope with what happened and continues to offer support in light of the most recent information.
“This week we have created space for students, staff and faculty to process. My team will continue to do so as needed,” Denu said at that time.
After the original report, multiple departments on campus held seminars and safe places for students and faculty to grieve and process the information together.
One of the most prominent events on campus was APU Seminary’s worship service of lament entitled Black Pain and Tears. Students and faculty gathered in Wynn Amphitheatre and sang worship songs, read aloud prayers and offered an open stage for participants to reflect on and confess their own racial biases and actions.
APU’s Black Student Association (BSA) also opened up a space for students on campus to express their grief and concern during a closed meeting.
“Our campus community still has work to do to address bias and to focus our efforts on education, community healing and combating sentiments that undermine the imago dei of every person,” Denu said in her most recent email. “It is in this spirit that we continue important discourse on diversity, engage a variety of perspectives and embrace active listening in a spirit of humility. We continue our efforts to recruit, hire and support a diverse community in an effort to create a milieu that reflects the mosaic of God’s kingdom. We want our community to know that we see each member, we hear each member and we affirm their value.”