Two weeks ago, on May 21, the cardboard wall built by the Society of Arab Students was burned to the ground. As of now, the UCIPD still has not been able to find the perpetrators.
Some have questioned whether the UCIPD has done a thorough investigation.
Because UCIPD community service officers were not able to put out the fire with only fire extinguishers, they contacted the Irvine Fire Department.
After the Fire Department examined the scene and could not find any physical evidence to determine what may have started the fire, they gave the Police Department clearance to clean the scene.
The UCIPD then took photographs of the scene and afterwards had a maintenance crew clean the site.
Capt. Stephen Miller of the Irvine Fire Department stated that there is a procedure of investigation when the Fire Department investigates a fire.
‘There is a process we go through depending on how complicated the fire is. A cardboard structure out in a cement area with nothing around, no wires down, is obviously an incendiary fire,’ Miller said.
Furthermore, because there was no usable evidence at the scene, Miller believes that the UCIPD did the best they could.
‘If there is no evidence at the scene other than what’s burned down … and they take pictures, I don’t know what else [UCIPD] could have done at that point,’ Miller said.
According to Al Brown, Chief of Police of the UCIPD, one witness came forward saying that he had seen an Asian or Latino male adult running from the scene. But after reinterviewing the witness, the police concluded that his report was not pertinent to the case.
Vanessa Zuabi, a second-year international studies and political science major and vice president of SAS, who was present while the police were investigating the scene, was for the most part satisfied with the efforts of the police to find the guilty party.
‘The police were very helpful and supportive throughout the investigation,’ Zuabi said. ‘They were the ones who told us that it was a hate crime in the first place. My only complaint is that that they didn’t send patrols right after finding out from the witness that someone had been running from the scene.’
Brown reported that the UCIPD is classifying this incident as a hate crime because in addition to the burning of the SAS wall, a Zot ‘n’ Go North stand which had a SAS schedule of events on it was also burned. SAS had told the UCIPD that the wall had been toppled over a few days before the fire, which the UCIPD had interpreted as a previous attempt to destroy the wall.
‘Based on all the facts and training and experience, I made the decision to classify it as a hate crime,’ Brown said. ‘Burning the wall was like someone burning a cross in the front yard. Is this an arson or is a message trying to be sent here?’
Brown reassures that the UCIPD is doing everything possible to find the guilty party.
The UCIPD has sent out a message to the Irvine community asking anyone with information about who might have burned the wall to come forward.
Furthermore, they have contacted the FBI to let them know about the incident so that the FBI may keep watch for any similar incidents targeted at the same group of students throughout the state of California.
Brown also stated that the UCIPD has notified the state fire marshall assigned to UCI for any assistance he could provide to find the perpetrators.
At this point, the UCIPD is hoping that someone will come forward with information about the perpetrators or that the guilty party will come forward.
Unfortunately, no one has come forward as of yet and Brown is doubtful that anyone will.
‘Hopefully someone will step up, but in my experience with most arsonists, they don’t,’ Brown said.
Zuabi also confessed that she was not optimistic that the police will find the perpetrators.
‘From the beginning, what surprised me the most was that there weren’t more witnesses except for the one person, which was so minute, and so I had no expectations of the police finding the perpetrator,’ Zuabi said.
Zuabi also pointed out that the police were considering increasing security on campus to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Unfortunately, in a follow-up visit to the police station, SAS was told that the administration was not as supportive.
‘The Police Department wanted more security on campus after the incident, but the administration didn’t want to and they justified it by saying that it would taint UCI’s reputation,’ Zuabi said.
SAS members felt threatened after they had received electronic hate mail from an anonymous sender who made negative comments and threats towards Arabs and Muslims.
According to Brown, he and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez will be meeting with SAS members to reassure them that although their safety is a concern on campus there have been no threats to their safety since the burning of the wall.