While the alleged felony of ethnic intimidation that involved a University student urinating on two Asian students continues to enrage student organizations on campus, the suspects and their neighbors say the Ann Arbor Police Department and the media have exaggerated the incident.
The AAPD reported that along with urinating on an Asian man and woman passing by his apartment on Sept. 15, the 20-year-old male suspect and his roommate threw objects and screamed racial slurs at the couple. University President Mary Sue Coleman condemned the incident to the entire student body last Thursday via e-mail after faculty members urged the administration to take action.
But neighbors of the accused student are insisting that no one was urinated on, no racial slurs were used and no objects were thrown at the alleged victims.
“It seems that everyone – the police, the administration, and the student body – has determined we are guilty without having heard the facts. Now we have to prove our innocence after being falsely accused of this event,” the 20-year-old suspect said. Both of the accused agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity due to potential acts of violence that other students might commit against them.
The Michigan Daily was unable to contact the alleged victims, whose names have not been released by AAPD. University administrators and other campus leaders were unwilling to share the information.
Stephanie Kao, a Business senior and co-chair of the United Asian American Organizations, said that whether the incident is true or not is beside the point – it highlights the negative campus climate toward Asians students.
“A lot of us are angry about these racial slurs – we’re so focused on this issue of urination and beer. It’s beyond this issue at this point. This incident might have been the catalyst, but we are trying to address why these incidents are possible and what in this University climate makes it possible and acceptable for racial harassment to happen,” Kao said.
She added that since the alleged crime was publicized, UAAO has received numerous messages from Asian students who said they were victims of racial harassment on campus before.
Suspects recount incident
However, the accused said this incident was completely and illogically misinterpreted as a racially motivated act. The student accused of urinating on the two Asian students stressed that it is nearly impossible to urinate off their balcony. The fence around it is about five feet high, made of wood with only half an inch slit between the boards, where the suspect allegedly urinated through onto the couple. In order for someone to urinate off the balcony someone would have to be standing on a chair, the suspect said. He added that there is also a set of bike racks immediately under their apartment so it is difficult to walk directly under the balcony.
The student suspected of urinating on the couple said the night started off in typical fashion with only him and his roommate hanging out on the balcony playing beer pong. While an Asian couple walked by, his roommate tossed a beer absentmindedly over the side of the balcony.
The roommate insisted that it was a coincidence that he threw the beer while the couple was walking by, but he said it was at least seven or eight feet away from them.
“I’m almost positive nothing hit them,” he said.
Both of the accused said that in response the Asian male used profanities and flicked a Dunhill cigarette at them, which hit one the suspects, a 21-year-old male, in the arm.
Amused by the gesture, the 21-year old male said he picked up the cigarette and started smoking it. Both admitted to exchanging profanities, but none involving racial epithets.
After a few minutes of arguing, the accused said the couple walked around the corner leading them to believe the incident was over.
However, the incident escalated when they said the Asian male showed up approximately 45 minutes later with four other male friends. The Asian female was not present.
The accused said that the five men were yelling at them to come downstairs and fight.
“If you show up with five people against two, how can you turn around and say your were ethnically intimidating them. It was five to two – he brought a gang to our apartment,” the 21-year-old male said.
The 20-year-old male said he went downstairs to try to resolve the issue, because the Asian student believed he threw the beer intentionally at them. However, the suspect said there was only more yelling, and he decided to go back inside.
“I didn’t think we could resolve anything with five pissed off people, and I wasn’t going to wait outside all night,” the 20-year-old male said.
LSA junior Amanda Beliveau, who lives right next door to the accused, said she also went down stairs to defuse the situation.
She said she started talking to the alleged victim who told her, “They almost spilled beer on my girlfriend” and “They could have peed on us.”
Beliveau said she did not believe her neighbor urinated on the alleged victims because she thought he would have brought it up then if it did indeed happen.
She added the male also wanted the number for Prime Student Housing, the owner of the building, to get them evicted.
After five minutes of trying unsuccessfully to placate the five men, Beliveau gave up and went back upstairs to her apartment.
Another neighbor, LSA senior George Saba and a Daily business staff member, said he stepped out of his apartment when he heard yelling at about 11:25 p.m. He said he saw five males below trying to incite a fight with his neighbors.
The 20-year-old suspect said that even though there were five men, he was not afraid to leave his apartment because it was a Thursday night and the streets were illuminated. He left and went to use the ATM and get a pack of cigarettes around 11:45 p.m.
When he returned the men were still waiting for him. Another exchange of profanities ensued – yet the accused said they never used a racial slur. When one of the five men below was yelling at them in Korean, the 20-year-old male said, “You are going to have to speak English. I don’t understand you.” To this one of men replied, “Why don’t you learn to speak Korean, bitch.”
The 21-year-old male said at one point during the exchange, he was referred to as “white fat American piggy.”
AAPD arrives on the scene
Minutes later, the 20-year-old said the AAPD arrived, and he ran upstairs. Neither of the accused knew who called the AAPD, but the 21-year-old male thought it was the Asian female from earlier.
Having had three or four beers, the 20-year-old male did not want to risk an MIP, so he barricaded himself in his apartment. In other news sources, the suspect was identified as a 21-year-old, which didn’t address this possibility of why he was hiding from the police.
“I didn’t want to get an MIP and I just thought I could deal with it tomorrow,” he said.
Since his roommate was of legal drinking age, he volunteered to talk to the police.
The 21-year-old male said he talked with the police and tried to explain his account of the evening. He said the police in turn offered him an ultimatum: either his roommate comes out or he was to be arrested.
His neighbor Saba said he heard one the officers say to him at one point “I don’t believe you.”
After communicating with the police, the 21-year old male entered the apartment and told his roommate he was facing charges of ethnic intimidation for allegedly urinating on the couple.
When he would not come out, The AAPD officers took the 21-year-old male to the station to be questioned, fingerprinted and have his picture taken. He said he was there for half an hour and he was not charged with anything.
The 21-year-old said that the next day he saw the Asian man and an unrecognizable passenger drive by in a blue subaru and stare at his apartment on two separate occasions. He said they drove away before he could take a picture.
The AAPD has not confirmed if the two accused are being charged as of yet. Sergeant Pat Hughes said all he can confirm is that the issue is still under investigation.
The 20-year-old male said that the AAPD has not returned calls from his lawyer.
The AAPD police report included a statement from the accused, the two victims and an eyewitness who worked at the parking structure adjacent to the apartment building.
In the report, the parking attendant said she witnessed the event from the second floor of the parking structure. She said she saw one of the suspects leaning up against the balcony, but due to the distance was not sure if he was in fact urinating. Also, the attendant said she saw the accused throwing soapy water from their balcony.
The 20-year-old male said he was throwing the water off his balcony to clean out the case of a keg. In no way was he aiming it at the men below he said.
Despite the outrage from the community, he said he still defends his innocence. “I’m curious as to why these five men who came to my residence and who have threatened my roommate and me have not been investigated. It appears that the administrators and student organizations have taken their words as the truth without hearing our sides of the story. We are innocent of these accusations,” he said.
Groups rally to action
Regardless of the outcome of the alleged felony, many student organizations across campus are planning events to end racial prejudice on the campus. Today, a meeting will be held at the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center at 5 p.m to discuss what actions the Asian community can take to resolve racial harassment on campus.
The Michigan Student Assembly has also prepared a resolution that would allocate MSA funds and plan events to educate students on hate crimes.
Andrew Guzman, an LSA junior and the president of Filipino American Student Association, said that the Asian American community has become too complacent with racial discrimination in the past and it is time for the community to step up and speak for itself.
“Something as big as (the urination incident) that happened struck me. It motivates us. We need to watch out for each other on campus,” Guzman said.
American Culture Prof. Amy Stillman was one of several faculty members of the Asian Pacific-Islander American Studies program that sent a letter to University administrators on Thursday urging them to take measures to stop racial harassment on campus. Stillman said clearly the University needs to expend more effort educating students on the harm racial bias can cause.
“Although there have been efforts in past years to educate administrators on (Asian American) community needs, it is widely perceived that these efforts have been met repeatedly by administrative indifference,” Stillman said.
She added, “The University of Michigan, which prides itself on valuing diversity, has failed its (Asian) students. Enough is enough.”
– Daily Staff Reporter C.C. Song contributed to this report.