Two University of Connecticut (UConn) students have been charged with shouting a racial slur outside a campus apartment complex in an episode that was caught on video and has led to protests at the school.
Jarred Karal, of Plainville, and Ryan Mucaj, of Granby, both identified by police as 21-year-old white men, were charged Monday with ridicule on account of creed, religion, colour, denomination, nationality or race.
The charge is a misdemeanour that carries a possible sentence of up to a year in prison. Phone and email messages were left for the two students, who are due in court October 30. It was not clear on Tuesday whether they had lawyers to speak for them.
Police believe the young men were among three people seen on the video walking through the car park of UConn’s Charter Oak Apartment complex October 11. Two of the three use the racial slur several times and laugh, police said.
“The investigation showed that the males walked back through the apartment complex after leaving a local business and played a game in which they yelled vulgar words,” according to the police report. “As they walked through the parking lot, Mucaj and Karal switched to saying a racial epithet that was heard by witnesses. The investigation revealed the third male did not participate.”
The slurs were recorded by an African American student from an apartment window and posted on social media.
That student told police he was not sure whether the students saw him or were directing the racial epithets towards him.
Karal told police the group was playing a game in which they would yell the word “penis”. The first person who refuses loses, he said. They decided to change the game to shouting the racial epithet, he said.
“I sincerely apologise if we offended anyone,” he told police, according to the affidavit. “This was not our intentions at all. We were acting dumb, idiotic and childish.”
Mucaj told police he had seven drinks at a local bar that night and did not remember the episode, according to an arrest affidavit.
On Monday, student organisations and the school’s chapter of the NAACP held a rally and march against racism across campus in response to the slurs and another situation in which a student said she was the target of a racial slur at a party.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas, who attended the rally, issued a statement in support of the arrests.
“It is supportive of our core values to pursue accountability, through due process, for an egregious assault on our community that has caused considerable harm,” he said. “I’m grateful for the university’s collective effort in responding to this incident, especially the hard work of the UConn Police Department, which has been investigating the case since it was reported.”
Katsouleas has scheduled office hours Friday at the school’s African American Cultural Center to meet with students who may wish to talk to him.
He also has announced a nationwide search for a chief diversity officer at the school, which has a student population that is 60 percent white and just six percent African American, according to US Department of Education statistics.