Altercation at U of Iowa Not a Hate Crime, Police Say

May 18, 2016

Local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have ruled that an altercation involving a black University of Iowa student last month was not a hate crime.

The Iowa student told police that he was walking in an alley in downtown Iowa City on April 30 when three men began punching him and yelling racial slurs. Iowa students criticized the university for failing to notify the campus of the attack until days later. Iowa officials said they did not learn of the Saturday incident until that Tuesday, when they were contacted by a television news station in Chicago, where the student’s family lives.

Iowa City police said this week that, after reviewing surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses, the altercation was revealed to be an "isolated incident that stemmed from an ongoing disagreement" between two fraternities. According to police, the student, Marcus Owens, was involved in three separate fights that night related to the disagreement.

"According to witnesses, the N-word was used by one individual at the time of the second altercation," police said in a statement. "This investigation was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for review to assist in making the determination if this matter was defined as a hate crime. The FBI determined that the facts of this investigation did not meet the criteria necessary to be labeled as a hate crime."

In a statement released Tuesday, the family of Owens apologized to the university and the police department.

"Upon learning more details of the case, and while racial slurs served to fuel the violence, Marcus now knows that his account of events was inconsistent with police findings, in part due to alcohol being involved, his embarrassment at his behavior, as well as the injuries he sustained," the family said. "In light of this, it was concluded that this incident was not a hate crime as originally believed, but rather a case of excessive underage drinking and extremely poor judgment on the part of many people, Marcus included."

University of Iowa officials also released a statement, saying that "regardless of the outcome, this incident highlighted a level of fear and distrust on our campus that must and will be addressed."

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