Hate crime report at UNC was false, police say

From Staff ReportsApril 12, 2011 

— A UNC-Chapel Hill freshman who told police he was attacked by a man who burned his hand and called him an anti-gay slur made a false report, the university says.

In a message just released to the campus community, Chancellor Holden Thorp says: "The Department of Public Safety has determined that the alleged aggravated assault reported to campus last night did not occur. That report, filed with campus police on April 5, was false. The University will not report it as a hate crime."

"It is important to recognize that incidents of harassment do occur," Thorp continued. "When they do, we take them seriously. We strive to foster a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment at Carolina.

Freshman Quinn Matney told police he was outside his South Campus dorm April 4 when he stopped to speak with an acquaintance. As he stood on a foot bridge near his Craige Residence Hall, he had said another college-age man nearby approached him, called him an anti-gay slur, and pressed a hot piece of metal to his left wrist.

The university planned to report the incident as a hate crime to the federal government. The assault was apparently motivated by Matney’s sexual orientation, Thorp said in a statement Monday. “As a university community, we condemn this act of violence,” Thorp wrote. “Our Department of Public Safety will bring the strongest possible charges against the attacker.”

But police had little to work with. Matney could not identify his attacker or the person he stopped to speak with just before the attack, said Jeff McCracken, UNC’s police chief.

Efforts to reach Matney today were unsuccessful.

THE ORIGINAL STORY IS BELOW

Authorities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are investigating an assault on campus last week as a hate crime.

"As a university community, we condemn this act of violence," said UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp in a statement on Alert Carolina, the campus website that disseminates safety-related information to students, faculty and staff. "Our Department of Public Safety will bring the strongest possible charges against the attacker."

The attack, which was reported to police April 5, occurred on the foot bridge between Craige Residence Hall and the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive. Police said the student was treated for burns at the student health center. The student, freshman Quinn Matney, told police a person he recognized but did not know pressed a hot piece of metal to his left wrist, scalding it and doing tendon damage.

The burn left an imprint that looks something like a figure 8.

Police have no suspects yet, Chief Jeff McCracken said Tuesday. Matney said he stopped to speak to another acquaintance just prior to the attack, but didn't know that person by name, either, McCracken said.

Thorp said in the statement that the aggravated assault "appears to have been motivated by the sexual orientation of a male student."

Thorp said the university intends to report the assault as a hate crime to the federal government.

"Everyone in our community has the right to a safe, inclusive and welcome living and learning environment," Thorp said. "And all of us have a responsibility to stand against acts of violence, harassment, bullying and intimidation and to treat each other with civility and respect."

Outside of a bare-bones incident report on hand at the police station, the attack was not made public by the university until Monday, a week later. That lag time has bothered some members of the gay community at UNC-CH.

"It's troubling when the only way we find out about a hate crime on campus is by word of mouth," said Jeff DeLuca, a sophomore and co-president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance.

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