A University of Illinois student accused of fashioning a noose and hanging it inside an on-campus elevator is now facing felony hate crime charges in the incident.
Campus police arrested 19-year-old Andrew M. Smith on Monday “after an interview with police at his residence hall,” according to a statement from the university. Smith was also booked on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges, however, officials said the charges could be amended as the court proceedings move forward.
“Our mission at the University Police Department is to maintain a safe and secure environment where our campus community members feel supported and successful,” public safety director and Chief of Police Craig Stone said in a statement Tuesday.
Staffers at Allen Hall, a dormitory on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, said they discovered “a rope tied into a noose hanging inside an elevator in a public area of the building” just after 1 a.m. Sunday. Police later ID’d Smith as the perpetrator after reviewing the incident.
The university alerted students to the incident Monday, and said it was reported to the school’s “Housing bias response team,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. U of I’s “Bias Assessment and Response Team” is also working to address what happened.
“We do not tolerate incidents that are perceived by others to be a threat to their safety, and we will always respond quickly to identify offenders and hold them accountable for those actions,” Stone’s statement continued.
Additionally, support services will be offered to residents/students impacted by what happened, school officials said.
Smith appeared in court Tuesday, where a judge set his bond at $5,000.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the sophomore student is a mathematics major and has been a full-time student since fall 2018.
In court Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink said Smith told police he’d “only spent about 30 seconds thinking about his actions.” After seeing the reaction on social media, he still didn’t think it serious enough to turn himself in — so his friend did.
The suspect also told authorities that the knot he chose only “happened to be a racial hate symbol,” according to The News-Gazette.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker lauded the University of Illinois for its swift action in nabbing the suspect and emphasized that, “hate has no place in Illinois or in its educational institutions.”
“I’m committed to fighting intolerance and bigotry everywhere in our state and building a culture of learning at our universities that serves all student,” Pritzker wrote in a tweet. “Support is being offered on campus for students who may wish to participate or attend community meetings to share their voices and experiences.”
The incident comes just months after three African-American employees sued the university in January, claiming they were regularly subjected to offensive stereotypes, slurs and “threats of racial violence” that included nooses, swastikas, KKK regalia and other hate symbols.
That case is still pending in the Central District of Illinois federal court, the Sun-Times reported.
An investigation into the noose incident remains ongoing.