Three San Jose State University students were charged with hate crimes for bullying their black roommate with Nazi symbols, racial slurs, Confederate flags and a bicycle lock, which they stuck around his neck. They said they were just playing "pranks." They also blamed a fish.
The men -- Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Logan Beaschler and Colin "Boat Shoes" Warren, both 18 -- allegedly (and this is all alleged, since they've been charged but not convicted) started "teasing" their roommate (whose name is being withheld) after a freshman orientation's cultural sensitivity training segment, according to the AP. They called him "three-fifths" because references to slavery are the sort of harmless funny jokes you make following a cultural sensitivity training class.
That progressed to hanging a Confederate flag in the window, writing racial slurs on dry-erase boards, barricading him in his bedroom and wrestling him to the floor to lock a bike lock around his neck, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The RAs knew of at least some of the harassment; two of them asked the students to take the Confederate flag down from the window and put it somewhere where the public wouldn't see it. It was still in the dorm when the police searched it. Good looking out, RAs. Finally a Residential Life Coordinator called the police on October 14, according to the incident report.
When the police finally caught up to them, the men claimed that they weren't racist but simply playing pranks and jokes on the one person in their eight-person suite who happened to be black. Their reason: his friend stole their fish and then told on them when they came to get it by forcing their way into her room. They were bearing clubs at the time, according to her statement to the police.
As you can see in the police incident report, one of the dorm's bedrooms had a bunch of Nazi symbols, too, like a picture of Hitler and a swastika. Beaschler told the police officers that he was not anti-Semitic because he had a Jewish friend. Of course he did.
The three students were suspended (there's also a fourth student involved, although he was under the age of 18 so his name has not been released. Very little has been said about him, but the police report says he was referred to juvenile court), according to a statement from the University president. They face up to a year in jail if found guilty of the misdemeanor hate crime and battery charges that were filed against them.
The bullied student told the San Jose Mercury News that he was "still in shock," adding: "I tried not to dwell on this. But my family is upset and I'm upset."
Hundreds of his fellow SJSU students participated in a "Black Thursday" rally today to support him:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.