Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski is speaking out after a hate crime, reported on Beloit College’s campus, turned out to be fake.
“There were certain indicators that led us to believe there was a little more to the story,” he said on Thursday.
It all began with a real hate crime: An anti-semitic note passed under a student’s door at a residence hall. Zibolski says that threat was investigated immediately.
“We were already investigating the first incident when this one came up, which obviously ratcheted up the fear and concern on campus,” he said.
Zibolski says another student came forward with a hate crime report, this one involving anti-Muslim messages painted on a residence hall door. But after a thorough investigation, detectives discovered the victim, 20-year-old Michael Kee, had painted the messages himself. Kee admitting to the crime, saying he wanted the same attention the campus was giving the other student.
Zibolski says false reports like Kee’s can increase the trauma for real hate crime victims.
“Especially something of this magnitude, which has that kind of draw and fear that comes with it,” he explained. “That really can cause delegitimizing or diminishment of the public’s response when we have additional crimes of that nature.”
Beloit College Spokesperson Whitney Helm says students have come together to help each other process both the real hate crime and the fake one.
“Making sure that their fellow students feel supported, and definitely those communities and marginalized groups feel most supported,” said Helm.
Zibolski says he wants the public to know his department will continue to investigate hate crimes vigorously, despite the false report.
Kee is charged with obstructing, disorderly conduct, and criminal damage to property. Beloit Police are still investigating the other, legitimate hate crime.