Two white University of Arizona students have been suspended two weeks after they allegedly beat a black student while repeatedly calling him the n-word earlier this month.
The victim was near a residence hall around 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 when students Matthew Frazier, 20, and Matthew Rawlings, 19, started “screaming at him for no reason,” called him the n-word eight to 10 times, tripped him, tackled him, kicked him, and punched him in the head “at least five times,” according to victim and witness accounts in the 14-page incident report filed by police.
One witness told officers that Rawlings kicked the victim while he was lying down, and another said that Rawlings called him a “pussy ass bitch” during the alleged attack.
A university spokesman said he could not confirm the suspension, which was first reported by the Arizona Daily Star, citing federal education privacy laws.
The victim, who has not been publicly identified, told police he had “never had any contact with them before” and that he was appalled by the slur. He initially declined to pursue criminal charges, but he changed his mind after discussing it with his mother, according to the police report.
“What happened keeps repeating in his head, him being called that word,” an officer wrote, after her interview with the student. “He said the incident replays (in his head) every day, every second, and it is frustrating. Every time he feels pain in his hand, he is reminded of it.”
When questioned by police, Rawlings, meanwhile, said that Frazier—who allegedly had blood on his arms and shirt when he was questioned—was “heavily intoxicated” and that the victim started yelling at him from across the street, according to the report. Police said Rawlings smelled like alcohol and told officers that he was trying to kick Frazier to “get him to stop fighting” but that he couldn’t be sure whether he’d hit him.
Frazier, who allegedly had slurred speech and also smelled of alcohol at the time of his interview, denied to officers that he had been drinking or hanging out at the residence hall that evening.
“When asked about the abrasions on his arm, he denied having them,” an officer wrote in the report. “When asked about the blood on his shirt, he stated, ‘I don’t know.’”
Three days later, both Frazier and Rawlings were charged with misdemeanor assault, said University of Arizona Police Chief Brian Seastone in a statement. A university spokesman also noted, in an email to The Daily Beast, that Arizona does not have a hate crime law on the books but that a report on the alleged assault was written up for the federal authorities.
Frazier and Rawlings’ code of conduct cases are being handled by the university’s dean of students.
In the days after the attack, 300 people attended a protest on campus that was organized by the Black Student Union, which has demanded the expulsions of both men and criticized officers for seeking misdemeanor charges, the Daily Star reported.
“The attack—deemed a ‘minor’ injury by the UAPD—minimizes the emotional impact caused, thereby disenfranchising the lives of the black student body at our university,” the group reportedly said in a statement after the incident.
Police have said that Frazier and Rawlings were not charged with a felony because state statutes mandate that a victim must sustain “serious physical injury, temporary but substantial disfigurement, temporary but substantial loss or impairment of any body organ or part, or a fracture of any body part” for a felony to apply.
The victim had scrapes on his hands and knees and told police he was going to get checked for a concussion, according to the police report.
In a letter to students and faculty following the alleged attack, University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said: “I want our community to know that racism, bias and violence will not be tolerated at this University.”
“I write to you today out of anger, disappointment and regret,” said Robbins. “Inclusion is one of our primary values, and this is one of those moments that defines us and our community at the University of Arizona.”
“We need to come together and let people know, without qualification, that intolerance and discrimination have no home here,” he added. “Unless we have a safe environment, free from violence, discrimination and hate, students will not be free to learn and pursue their dreams.”
Rawlings and Frazier attended criminal arraignment hearings on Monday in Pima County Justice Court, according to the Daily Star. At the hearing, the judge reportedly told both men they were to avoid contact with the victim and that they were not allowed to return to the scene of the alleged attack. The judge also reportedly gave Rawlings permission to live with his parents in California.
Dan Cooper, who represents Frazier, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he could not comment on the report or the allegations, except to say: “Things are not always as they initially appear.”
Neither Cooper nor Rawlings’ attorney, Louis Fidel, would comment on the suspension to The Daily Beast.