FBI denies FSU’s inquiry regarding hate crimes

The FBI provided no assistance to FSUPD’s investigation into the hate crimes that occurred on campus last semester, according to FSUPD Sgt. Martin Laughlin.

The agency was contacted to assist with handwriting analysis after the first three hate crimes occurred in October 2017. President F. Javier Cevallos announced the request for assistance in a campus-wide email on Nov. 1, 2017.

“University Police have requested the assistance of the FBI to further evaluate the racist messages and handwriting. Currently ongoing,” read the email.

Laughlin said the request for assistance, which included the handwriting samples, was denied because the FBI prioritized other investigations.

“We’re still actively working. We’re still talking to anyone under the sun, anyone we possibly can, that might have an inkling of what happened. We are working with another agency doing handwriting samples, and we are working with the State Police for fingerprint analysis,” said Laughlin.

He added the pace of the investigation is not the fault of FSUPD or “any other agency on campus,” as they’re working with a limited amount of information.

“Someone knows something,” said Laughlin. “You may have a crime and it may be solvable, but if you don’t have enough to support the crime, you don’t have much. But if you go off of statements, witness statements, on top of fingerprint samples, then you build a stronger case, but right now, we don’t have a lot.”

FSUPD’s investigation has been ongoing since the first hate crime occurred in October and will continue with the help of the State Police and any other agencies FSUPD can successfully contract for assistance.

Senior John Ferrera said, “It’s a very serious situation. They should involve as many authorities as they can. … I think the bad thing is that the emails were very misleading. I thought they said at several points in emails that  [the FBI] were involved.”

Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, announced the news during a Board of Trustees’ meeting on Jan. 24.

“The FBI will not be able to assist any further in the investigation,” said González. She added she did not know the reason behind the change at the time of the meeting.

“When I learned about the FBI discontinuing their involvement, I was disheartened. I recently met with the representatives from Senator Warren’s office, and I updated them on last semester’s racist incidents and our response,” said González.

She added the representative from Sen. Warren’s office said they would bring the University’s concerns to the attention of Sen. Warren, but González had not heard back from them as of Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Peter Chisholm, the director of government relations, reached out to Congresswoman Katherine Clark regarding this matter at the request of President F. Javier Cevallos. This request is also pending.

Sophomore Leshawn Cornelius said, “I feel like the FBI is more for bigger issues – like drugs, the cartel – things that harm others. The racism on campus is more of a community thing, it’s something we need to work on.”

According to Laughlin, approximately 100 people have been interviewed at this time regarding the investigation, even if they are seeking assistance from FSUPD about an unrelated incident such as a car break-in.

He added, “It’s not slowing down, but it takes time.”

If FSUPD does find out who committed the crimes, it is ultimately up to the court system what that person is charged with – “and that takes time, too,” said Laughlin.