UPDATE: Two MU students arrested in Black Culture Center incident

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 11:03 a.m. CST; updated 5:53 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Zachary Tucker, left, and Sean Fitzgerald were arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of second-degree tampering.

UPDATED: 2:03 p.m.

COLUMBIA — An anonymous tip led to the arrest of two MU students Tuesday night in connection with the scattering of cotton balls in front of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.

MU police officers arrested freshman Sean Fitzgerald, 19, and senior Zachary Tucker, 21, on suspicion of tampering in the second degree, a Class D Felony. The incident was classified as a hate crime, which carries harsher penalties.

Both students have been temporarily suspended pending the result of the university conduct process, according to a statement released Wednesday morning and e-mailed to students from the MU Chancellor.

Black Culture Center Director Nathan Stephens said he trusts that MU Police followed their leads and tips in the proper manner.

"We have to understand law enforcement doesn't arbitrarily arrest someone," Stephens said. "We have to trust the arrest was the result of a rigorous process."

Even though the arrest helps, Stephens said Monday's town hall meeting, where institutional values were reiterated, was a more relevant event in helping the university move past this incident.

"Even if the arrest didn't happen, Monday went a long way to help us move past this," Stephens said.

Missouri Students Association President Tim Noce said the arrest showed that the Police Department has been working hard on the case.

"When I heard about it, I breathed a little bit easier," Noce said. "It made me feel that there was some direct justice."

"When a bad event does happen, you not only need to press forward, but believe the right thing will eventually happen," Noce added.

Noce said there was no question that it was a hate crime and agreed with the charge.

"I'm not sure whether it was done as a joke or with malice," Noce said. "Regardless of that, it had a racial intent to it."

"I'm happy the arrest was made and taken seriously and they were not just taken in for questioning," said Yantezia Patrick, co-chairwoman of Four Front Minority Presidents Council. Patrick was outspoken and drew applause and cheers at Monday's town hall meeting about the incident at the Black Culture Center. Patrick is a former Missourian staff member.

Commander Michael Waldhauser said Fitzgerald and Tucker were members of Navy ROTC and both were midshipmen. They haad been in the program throughout their time at MU, he said.

Waldhauser explained that midshipmen take a course together and interact on a regular basis through other structured events such as physical training. Waldhauser could not comment on whether they are friends.

Both are on "interim leave of absence," pending investigation, according to a Navy ROTC news release. If they are removed from the university, the release said, they will be removed from the program.

Last fall, Fitzgerald appeared in a Mizzou Live Wire Blog post about the military and MU. 

Fitzgerald's residence at MU is listed as Laws Hall, according to the MU directory.

Tucker lives at Foxfire Apartments in Columbia.

Both were booked into the Boone County Jail and released on $4,500 bond each on Wednesday.

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Rachel Brekhus March 3, 2010 | 11:47 a.m.

Good job, MUPD. Now we'll see how the Student Conduct process goes.

(Report Comment)
lacinda florez March 3, 2010 | 12:41 p.m.

why on earth would you publish their addresses? Yes this was wrong that the incident happend but you are opening a whole other can of worms telling people where they live! That was stupid!

(Report Comment)
Patrick Hunley March 3, 2010 | 12:55 p.m.

What is the purpose of publishing the place of residence of each of the accused? What can providing this information do for readers other than encourage them to take retaliatory action? I understand that the information is in the public domain and that those who really want to find it and use it for retaliatory purposes would do so through other means if it weren't in this article, but that doesn't mean the Missourian has to or should make it easier for them to do so, nor provide it to those who don't have a justified need or desire for the information. I'm sure the staff didn't hastily decide to insert this information, but in my opinion it wasn't a quality journalistic decision to include it.

(Report Comment)
Megan Ogar March 3, 2010 | 1:18 p.m.

Thanks for the update - I'm glad to see something done against this crime. I'm not sure, however, that publishing the suspects' addresses serves a purpose in this story.

(Report Comment)
D Ellis March 3, 2010 | 2:00 p.m.

Let the fear, anquish and bad memories they brought back to my close friends,grandmother and Mother. Be felt as they wonder what kind of ignorant ppl know where they stay...There better off in jail then iin public...Trust me..

(Report Comment)
Kaitlin Warner March 3, 2010 | 2:26 p.m.

Publishing their places of residence simply added insubstantial information that was by no means vital to the message this story should have brought to readers. I definitely agree with you Patrick, it is only promoting acts of retaliation. I think it was a poor decision by the Missourian staff to just add this in at the end, and would really like to hear the reasoning behind it.

(Report Comment)
crm March 3, 2010 | 2:35 p.m.

I agree these students made a terribly insensitive mistake but they are young and to charge them with a felony. I don't feel the punshment fits the crime. Also, why publish their addresses and put them in such a vulnerable position. How about a public apology and education and community service. Why throw them away like this.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock March 3, 2010 | 3:05 p.m.

I'm happy to answer the question of why the Missourian chose to provide a general description of where the suspects live.

The Missourian provides as much information as necessary to prevent confusion over identity. That was why we decided to give a very general description of where they live and not anything specific.

Thanks for reading,

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)
Jennifer Wilmot March 3, 2010 | 3:06 p.m.

Aren't addresses normally published in the paper for accused and convicted parties?

Should they be an exception to the rule?

(Report Comment)
Patrick Hunley March 3, 2010 | 3:53 p.m.

Thanks for clarifying the intended purpose of the information; I hadn't thought of that issue. I still think that the Missourian could have provided enough information to prevent identity confusion in other ways--the Columbia Tribune listed their majors, one student's hometown and the other's involvement with NROTC--but I understand the Missourian's concern. It's just a matter of how much information is enough, and there's no clear answer.

(Report Comment)
lacinda florez March 3, 2010 | 4:11 p.m.

My god, slap them on the hands and get over it.

(Report Comment)
Darren Jordan March 3, 2010 | 5:00 p.m.

If they didn't post their addresses in the story, one could find it in the Columbia Tribune. As they list all arrested and will include their address.

(Report Comment)
Claire Hanan March 3, 2010 | 9:54 p.m.

I don't think their vague addresses add enough to the story to justify putting them in the piece. Their names and pictures should have sufficed to give readers a sense of their identities. Shame on the Missourian for bordering on negligence.

(Report Comment)

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