A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet candidate once thought to be the target of racist hate at the school was in fact the vandal who scrawled racial slurs on the whiteboards outside the dorms of he and his classmates, the academy confirmed Tuesday, Oct. 7.
The shocking revelation comes just over a month after U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria delivered an emotional speech to academy cadets condemning the racist rhetoric, saying, “It’s not who we are, nor will we tolerate it in any shape or fashion … If you cannot treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.” Silveria stood by that stern message Tuesday and reiterated that such behavior has no place at the academy.
“Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed,” he wrote in an email to The Colorado Springs Gazette. “You can never over–emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect — and those who don’t understand those concepts, aren’t welcome here.”
The academy hasn’t released the name of the cadet candidate responsible for crafting the offensive messages but said he/she is no longer enrolled at the school. Air Force Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said the student admitted to the crime, after which his/ her claims were confirmed by an investigation.
“We acknowledge that there may be additional information already in the public space, but we’ll refrain from discussing further details surrounding the investigation due to privacy act requirements,” Herritage said in a statement.
The incident was first reported in late September after five Black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, Colo. said they’d found racial slurs written on the message boards outside their dorm rooms. The mother of one of the victims posted a photo of her son’s whiteboard to Facebook, which read “go home n—-r.”
The alleged “hate crime” roiled the Air Force Academy community and sparked a sweeping investigation at the school, according to The Gazette. Sources familiar with the matter said the student committed the act in a bizarre ploy to get out of trouble for a separate incident of misconduct at the academy.
The incident is the latest in a string of “hate crime hoaxes,” or acts of racism or anti-Semitism that are later found to be committed by a member of the targeted minority group, according to The Washington Post. On Monday, police in Riley County, Kansas revealed that a 21-year-old Black man admitted to vandalizing his own car with racist messages as a “Halloween prank that got out of hand.”
Dauntarius Williams, first believed to be a student at nearby Kansas State University, managed to escape charges for filing a false report but issued a public apology for his actions, saying in a statement, “The whole situation got out of hand when it should not have even started.”
“I wish I could go back to that night but I can’t,” Williams continued. “I just want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the pain and news I have brought you all.”
About a month earlier, Michigan police charged a Black man in connection to a handful of racist graffiti incidents that rocked the campus of Eastern Michigan University in 2016. Ex- student Eddie Curlin, 29, was hit with three counts of malicious destruction of property, four counts of identity theft and another charge stemming from incidents where he spray painted “KKK” and the N-word on a dorm building.
It’s still unclear what prompts people to commit these false crimes, but they’re becoming a huge concern for civil rights groups who monitor the ebb and flow of racist and anti-Semitic incidents.
“There aren’t many people claiming fake hate crimes — but when they do, they make massive headlines,” Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project told ProPublica in an interview this summer. It takes just one false report “to undermine the legitimacy of other hate crimes.”