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UPDATE: Student arrested in connection with graffiti incident

Saturday, February 12, 2011 | 10:53 a.m. CST; updated 7:34 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Hatch Hall Coordinator Patrick Patterson tries to cover up the offensive graffiti on a sculpture outside of Hatch Residence Hall on Saturday.

*CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the suspect's last name and the spelling of MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer's last name.

COLUMBIA — MU police arrested an 18-year-old MU student in connection with the spray painting of offensive words at Hatch Hall.

Benjamin A. Elliott was arrested on suspicion of second-degree property damage. Because the incident is considered a hate crime, the charge was escalated to a class D felony. Second-degree property damage is normally a class B misdemeanor.

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The offensive language appeared to be a racial slur referring to Black History Month.

He was held at the Boone County Jail, according to a MU police news release. He was released after posting the $4,500 bond.

According to the MU student, faculty and staff directory, Elliott is a freshman from Rolla in the College of Arts and Science. He's listed as living in Prunty Hall at Stephens College.

The incident took place late Friday or early Saturday morning, almost a year after two MU students scattered cotton balls in front of MU's Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.

MU police were alerted Saturday morning that offensive language had been written in graffiti across a sculpture in front of Hatch Hall, MU Police Department Capt. Brian Weimer said.

First the graffiti was covered with cardboard and plastic. Then Residential Life workers cleaned it off with a power washer and scrub brushes at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday. 

Members of Residential Life would not comment on the incident because of a media policy, Hatch Hall Coordinator Patrick Patterson said. 

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton released a statement at about 1:30 p.m. 

"I speak for our entire university community when I say we are dismayed and deeply offended and have zero tolerance for this hurtful and destructive behavior," Deaton wrote in the statement.

Bryan Like, president of MU's NAACP collegiate chapter, said that he wants the university to take a stronger stand on the issue.

"We need to hear from the powers that be how the issue will be dealt with," Like said. "We need retribution. If the university really has a zero tolerance policy, why won't actions like these result in expulsion?"  

Like said that he wants the university to work on educating students about racial issues to prevent these types of occurrences. 

"I think we need to talk to the incoming freshman about racial issues. You shouldn't have to pay per credit hour for a class to receive the education that brings about change," Like said. 

This incident comes less than two weeks before the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government, which will take place Feb. 24 to 26 at MU. About 800 minority students from across the nation will be attending the conference, according to MU's Legion of Black Collegians' website.

Weimer said no further details would be released because the investigation is still ongoing.


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Comments

Amanda Garrison February 12, 2011 | 11:32 a.m.

Is there a reason the Missourian and other media outlets cannot release what was written that qualifies as "offensive" graffiti? I don't think it makes sense that readers are TOLD that what was painted was offensive, but if the reader is not allowed to see or even hear about what was actually written, how do we know it was an offense? Part of the problem with academic definitions of "racism" is that the definitions do not always coincide with popular definitions of "racism," and therefore, the conversations that could be most helpful break down. If the university does not allow people to talk about what was written, how it upsets them (or not) and why this expression is unacceptable, it will (and does) continue to experience these disconnects...what it "expects" from it's students, faculty, staff and so on - in other words, its ideal - and what actually happens when you DON'T make as much of this BS as public as possible. Secrets keep people sick, after all...what is MU perpetuating here?

(Report Comment)
Robert Partyka February 12, 2011 | 12:10 p.m.

@ Amanda, http://m.plixi.com/p/76698926. Now please be quiet.

(Report Comment)
Amanda Garrison February 12, 2011 | 12:25 p.m.

@Robert:

I am not sure you understand what I am saying. It doesn't matter what the paint said...the point is the university censors what is available to people that might have questions...and the media helps out by failing to really investigate...so, thanks for the picture, but it was unnecessary work on your part.

And thanks for the advice, but I think I will continue to ask questions. Have a great day!

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 12:34 p.m.

Amanda,

Don't you agree that sometimes it is not a good idea to rebroadcast certain things..? Rebroadcasting some things does nothing but compound the damages that they can have..

An example if you will.. Just an example..

Let's say "SneakyPeep Tom" was at your bedroom window with a camera while you were in a state of undress... And let's say "SneakyPeep Tom" took a few pictures of you naked and posted them on FaceBook. Now let's say that you went to your Local law Enforcement Agency and made a complaint about it. And then the Columbia Missourian found out about that complaint, and determined that this case deserved some media attention and went to FaceBook and got your naked pictures before they could be taken down. Are you really sure that you would want the Columbia Missourian to post your naked pictures here for all to see along with the story; so as to make sure that the people at the Columbia Missourian did not censor "what is available to people that might have questions"? Really?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Amanda Garrison February 12, 2011 | 12:56 p.m.

@Rick:

I understand your point. That would be a pretty scary situation for me. There are differences here, however, and while I see your point about content, this is not a naked picture of an individual person broadcast over newspaper photographs and visual air waves. This is a word, spray painted on a cement block that is culturally situated as "offensive." The people that spray painted it KNOW that it is a word this is socially "unacceptable" overall. It is not a picture of someone living in Hatch Hall naked...it is, as far as anyone knows, not directed at any individual person, but a general reminder of ignorance...manifested in black paint on a state university structure. I do not see how asking questions about what we are allowed to see, by the media and a state institution, has anything to do with hypothetical pictures of me or anyone else, captured by a fictitious sex offender and illegally sent around in the media. The act of vandalism is illegal...but the use of that word is not. Should these creeps know better than to tag with racist language? I'll bet they already do...which is why no one saw who did this, and it was found this morning. It's not a political statement, it's just idiocy. It's when we are silenced and satisfied by what we are told that problems occur...the problems raised by asking questions are our responsibility to address.

(Report Comment)
Maddie Hinkle February 12, 2011 | 1:27 p.m.

Amanda, is it the university trying to keep people out of the loop? Or are you just being too nosey? You are implying that the words spray painted weren't necessarily offensive or unacceptable, yet given the picture someone posted it is pretty easy to see just how obscene the graffiti is. Think about what you say and how it will affect people before posting.

(Report Comment)
Bryan Ross February 12, 2011 | 1:43 p.m.

I have to agree with Amanda. The article misses the basic facts of the matter and without reporting that this was a racial slur, the readers are left to speculation. If the editors are afraid of offending their readers by reporting what was actually written, they could have easily danced around the issue by saying the graffiti used "the "N" word".

(Report Comment)
Amanda Garrison February 12, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

Thank you, Bryan!

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 1:51 p.m.

Well Amanda and Bryan, just answer one simple question....

Which is the worst sentiment to rebroadcast on the Internet..

An invasion of your personal privacy by displaying your naked pictures on the Internet or the sentiment of hate towards an entire race of people by displaying a word that advocates such hate?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Bryan Ross February 12, 2011 | 1:57 p.m.

My point isn't that the editors needed to show a photograph of the graffiti (or in your scenario lewd photographs), but rather not be so vague about what has happened.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 2:06 p.m.

Amanda,

Here is a thought... Mike Williams advocated that we should know personal details about people's lives that are on public assistance. Afterall, we are supporting their lifestyle... So, that lifestyle in effect "belongs to us"; the taxpayer..

You posted: "I do not see how asking questions about what we are allowed to see, by the media and a state institution, has anything to do with hypothetical pictures of me or anyone else, captured by a fictitious sex offender and illegally sent around in the media. The act of vandalism is illegal...but the use of that word is not. Should these creeps know better than to tag with racist language?"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now what if some pervert did post your naked pictures on the Internet? And what if you were on public assistance? Well then should we not be allowed to ask "are those boobs of her's real, or did she get a boobjob"? And IF you got a boobjob while you were on public assistance, then by Mike's line of thought, don't those boobs of yours belong to the taxpayer? Shouldn't the taxpayer be allowed to admire whatever it is that their tax dollars went to pay for? What if the Columbia Missourian did a story on people spending their money irresponsibly that are on public assistance? Do we get to see their boobs if they get a boobjob while on public assistance? Shouldn't we at least get to ask that question?

What about those questions? How far do you want to go with this? I mean you can say that we should be able to see EVERYTHING the media is reporting on, because we should be allowed to ask questions. But do you really want to take the limits off on this isssue?

My thoughts are this.

Some things don't need to be rebroadcast. When all that can come from rebroadcasting certains things is to further damage or harm another person, group of people, or race of people; then the media should feel no obligation to rebroadcast.

I can sit here and make arguments for almost anything.. But ultimately somebody has to weigh the the cost versus the benefit of doing these certain things. Here I believe the cost to displaying the image that you seem to be seeking greatly outweights the benefit of rebroadcasting it...

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 12, 2011 | 2:16 p.m.

Comment from story:
"Weimer said police are still in the early stages of investigation."

My response:
When more facts are in, journalists often tend to follow-up on stories for reader interest. Perhaps more facts will enter the media later. This story is appropriate for the photograph as shown. Why not call KOMU news desk and ask for additional details in a follow-up story, or ask them why not? The "Your View" segment of their televised news would be another great place to ask this question, concerning more details in the story. It would be interesting to see if KOMU responded as to why not - if it does not plan to do a follow-up.

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover February 12, 2011 | 2:28 p.m.

It was my decision on the wording.

The Missourian doesn't run profanities unless the words are necessary to make the meaning clear. I agree, Amanda, that "offensive language" is pretty vague, but early reports suggested language that was NOT in fact what was written. That is, we would have been wrong. Vague is better than inaccurate.

The update will be more specific. It sure is a racial slur, and one that refers to black history month.

I don't think you need more to understand the nature of the story. And, as others have noted (and linked to), you can find out if you really want to keep looking.

Tom Warhover
Executive editor

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

Bryan,

Let's take another look at my "Speculation Machine" that I am so fond of. LMAO! Now Mr. Rosman asked me not to "speculate". But we all speculate about things. It is in our nature, it is part of our thought process. And as I told Mr. Rosman, I have a "finely tuned and conditioned Speculation Machine"! I actually posted this to him in jest and humor more than anything else:

----------------------------------------
I sir have a "finely tuned and conditioned Speculation Machine"! It is not the ordinary, unconditioned, and out-of-tune "Speculation Machine"; you see. It is a "Speculation Machine" honed and conditioned on its use for profit! I extrapolate information from what people say, write, and do, and then I speculate as to predict what that person's next move will be, and I construct a course of action to counter that move. And I actually make a decent living doing this...
----------------------------------------

Now I think Mr. Warhover did a pretty good job. It does not take much "speculation" to know what this story is about and what happened here..

The article starts off like this:

----------------------------------------
"Almost a year after two MU students scattered cotton balls in front of MU's Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, the university is dealing with another incident."
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So I can "speculate" that the writing was racist, because it is comparative to the racist cottonball incident that occurred last year...

Then the article goes on to say this:

----------------------------------------
The MU Police Department was alerted Saturday morning that offensive language had been written in graffiti across a sculpture in front of Hatch Residence Hall, MU Police Department Capt. Brian Weimer said.
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And I can "speculate" that the wording of the grafiti must have conveyed a very offensive sentiment to get the Police involved.

I also note that when the picture was being taken, Mr. Patrick Patterson covered it up from the caption at the bottom of the article:

----------------------------------------
"Hatch Hall Coordinator Patrick Patterson tries to cover up the offensive graffiti on a sculpture outside of Hatch Residence Hall on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011"
----------------------------------------

Now what my "Speculation Machine" can not tell is whether or not Mr. Patterson was trying to cover it up so that the photographer could not publish the entire picture or the photographer asked him to? But I would imagine that the photographer was trying to get the entire picture since it could later be edited if need be.

So, I think with just a little "speculation" we already know what this story is about, and what happened.

Or should I play the "semantic game" that so many people do and say I am "drawing interences" instead of "speculating"? LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 12, 2011 | 3:54 p.m.

@Tom Warhover:

Thank you.

Your clarification for story context, as well the additional photographs for this informative article, give understanding to the events as they actually happened.

Other students who came to the assistance, cleaning up the graffiti, are balancing out the ugliness that was portrayed in the comment.

There always seem to be so many good people in the world, and only a few who try to make things difficult on everyone else.

Kudos to the Missourian for a great story, and congratulations to those who were kind and thoughtful enough to help clean up the mess.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 6:33 p.m.

Ricky Gurley says, "...Mike Williams advocated that we should know personal details about people's lives that are on public assistance."
________________________

If memory serves, I agreed drug testing should be performed on those folks on public assistance. Your statement infers that I advocated much, much more, and that would be entirely incorrect. But, if you can find statements to the contrary, I'm all ears...er...eyes.

Otherwise, leave me out of it.

(Report Comment)
Ken Geringer February 12, 2011 | 7:05 p.m.

Ya'll just don't seem to get this at all. At this time we don't know who wrote "n----r."
Why give some unknown dope such power.
Clean it up. Find who did it. Bust em for being stupid.
Let's go back to work.
You see how bad it is, I had to put ---- in before these newspaper dopes would allow me to post.
Can we take the power away from idiots?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 7:06 p.m.

Mike,

I am looking for the post in your profile that I was refering to. But GAWSH! You post more than I do! You post more than three of me do! Man! Is that all you do? Your posting history is longer than War and Peace!

Duder! You should have written a books for a living after you retired, you'd be on your tenth one by now.. And RICH! LMAO!

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 12, 2011 | 7:23 p.m.

I think Mike needs to go into politics. ;-)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 7:44 p.m.

Derrick: Not gonna happen. I ain't much of a compromiser. I would be unwilling to vote for something stupid just to get what I wanted.

Strike 1.

And I don't like the news media all that much. I have my own personal and professional reasons for this.

Strike 2.

I don't wanna.

Strike 3.

More fun being yer own boss of yer own company, methinks.

(PS: rough count....averaging 3.61 posts/day since my first Missourian post. Not bad. I go days without posting, but when I find an interesting article, I DO post heavily.)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 7:49 p.m.

As to the topic at hand, a good thing is that this kind of knucklehead(s) generally CAN'T keep their actions to themselves. It is not in their nature to keep their own actions "secret"...it's a self-esteem thingie. Someone/somebody will tell someone else who will tell someone else who will tell someone else who will make a phone call.

Busted!

And outa school, too. Either the start, or a continuation, of a wasted life. I ain't sorry.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 7:57 p.m.

But rather than trying to read a War and Peace Novel, authored by Mike williams, why not just argue my point on it's original principle?

Mike, if people on public assistance should have to take drug tests to see if they are spending our tax dollars on "recreatinal narcotics" and we should be privy to the results; then why should they not have to display their boobs if they spent over $10K of our tax dollars to get a boobjob while on public assistance?

The government could put up a website and call it "pubassistedboobs.com". And Mike... Mike.. Don't forget the benefit.... The government could charge a dollar for a one month membership to pubassistedboobs.com and then cut out public assistance for those that are displaying their boobs on the website after say, 3 months and then fund their living expenses with the profits generated from those that are paying their monthly membership dues to pubassistanceboobs.com. That way EVERYBODY is doing their part, everybody is earning their keep, and it is a win-win for EVERYONE!

I am just expanding on the intelligence of your thought process, Mike..... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 12, 2011 | 8:11 p.m.

@Mike: I was suggesting that to make you miserable. Darn you for not falling for my ploy...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 8:37 p.m.

Derrick: Politicians already make me miserable. I don't need any more of it by becoming one. But, I'd vote for you. Maybe. For a beer or two or three. And a hundred bucks. Cash. No checks.

Rick: I don't care to argue your point. I cared only in sitting the record straight. I did not say what you inferred.

(PS: Count yer own posts.)

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 8:50 p.m.

Mike,

You did not "sit" the record straight.. You really did not even SET the record straight..... ;o)

What was that about people posting a little more carefully when they have to use their real names? Spelling errors and all?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 8:59 p.m.

ok. you win.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 9:15 p.m.

Actually, I did not quite "win", Mike... I made a few of my own "spelling boo boos"... LOL

But, I have never really preached that we should all be spelling geniuses because we are having to use our real names, either...... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2011 | 9:20 p.m.

I have no idea why the word "nekelturny" comes to mind.

Perhaps I've been reading too much Tom Clancy.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 9:32 p.m.

Ahhh Gosh Darn.. Ya see, there you go again, Mike...

Look that word up in one of your "Super Soldier, Super Spy", Tom Clancy Novels...

You will find that it is spelled like this: "nekulturny"

NOT like this: "nekelturny".

But never fear, Mike.. Even the uncultured can "fake culture"; even if it is just for a little while..... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Lois Huneycutt February 12, 2011 | 10:11 p.m.

What secrecy? We were told the slur had to do with Black History Month. The photo up there, you can see the N in the first word and the M in the third word. Do they really need to spell it out for you?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 12, 2011 | 10:36 p.m.

Now you see....

Lois seems to have a well tuned "Speculation Machine".

Wish most people would tune up their "Speculation Machines".... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 13, 2011 | 3:22 a.m.

Excerpt from story:
MU police arrested an 18-year-old MU student in connection to the spray paint incident involving offensive words at Hatch Hall.

Benjamin A. Elliot was arrested on suspicion of second-degree property damage. Because the incident is considered a hate crime, the charge was escalated to a class D felony. Second-degree property damage is normally a class B misdemeanor.

My response:
By many people's accounts, Dr. King's unforgettable "I Have a Dream," remains one of the most defining speeches of history-changing significance. They note that: eloquently delivered yet simply spoken, his words remain seared in the human conscience in view of "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."

Can it be that Dr. King's vision of "all God's children" is a reality, at last?

Then, it follows that no greater honor could be given this great man, who laid down his life for the love of all humankind, and no greater way to say "Thank you" to his great gift, than those who embody his greatness in the dream becoming a reality.

Welcome to the 21st century.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver February 13, 2011 | 11:12 a.m.

I believe that they should persue the vandalism, but the felony hate crime charge, is a bit much. How can a word be illegal? It would be different had he assaulted someone for their race, burned a cross in someone's front yard making them fear for their lives or something of that nature, but painting a word that is often used by people of all races, isn't what I would call a hate crime.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 13, 2011 | 11:23 a.m.

Chip,

Usually these matters get resolved somewhat reasonably in the judicial process....

The Law Enforcement Agency charges the person with as much as they possibly can. the Prosecutor has more to bargain with. The Defense Attorney makes a good case as to why certain charges should be dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges. The Defendant walks out feeling like he just got one sweet deal (whether it is in handcuffs or not depends on the deal). Everybody walks out feeling "satisfied" (for lack of a better word); even the defendant....

Of course, what the defendant does not know won't hurt him at this juncture..... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver February 13, 2011 | 2:25 p.m.

Yes Ricky, I think you know that I understand how the judicial system works, but I am wondering about your stance on protected speech and how it applies to this situation. In the discussions on the hateful rhetoric that the right wing machine spews forth every moment of every day, that from all evidence, is actually costing lives, you were very resolved in your stand that even the worst of speech should be protected. I think you even stated that the worst of speech is what needs to be protected most.

My question is, how do you feel about this particular word being used, not the act of vandalism, which of course is illegal. Granted it is a stupid act, but is the use of the word itself any less to be protected than any other word, in your opinion?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 13, 2011 | 2:52 p.m.

I think the idea that Rick has is that repeating whatever stupid phrase was written would be like a reward to the NITWIT who spray painted it.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 13, 2011 | 3:49 p.m.

Chip,

My position has not changed. I am a staunch supporter of Free Speech. If some idiot wants to get out in public and use such a hateful word, then I don't think that should be illegal. And I don't think it is.. I think that the act or acts that go along with the use are what makes it illegal.

By the same token, if 5 people want to get together and call this guy that used that word a "cracker" or a "redneck", or whatever the popular slang is today to insult a caucasion, I don't have any problem with that either..

But you see here, this idiot is not being arrested for excercising free speech, he is being arrested for vandalism or damage to property (or some charge similar), and under those charges the state is able to enhance the charge based on the sentiment that this illegal act conveyed.

You are not going to get me to change my stance on this issue Chip; no matter what terrible situation you put in front of me. The fact is that I do NOT relish idiots making hateful, racial slurs. But I relish even less my Constitutional Rights being slowly eroded because we do have a few idiots running around in our society.

AND! If one of these idiots got an attorney and the attorney asked me to assist in his defense with witness interviews or whatever services I could provide to assist in his defense.. I WOULD! That may not be the popular stance, but until the people that like me start showing up at my house with groceries, or paying my mortgage, or paying my light bill; I am not going to worry about popularity that much with regards to who I work for, and how popular it is to work for them.. I am going to do my job the best I know how, in as ethical manner as I can, and within the boundaries of the law, no matter who my client is; The Pope or Charles Manson.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 13, 2011 | 3:51 p.m.

Thank you Paul. Well said! And that is exactly what I meant.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver February 13, 2011 | 11:31 p.m.

I just wanted to see if you would backslide, and you stood your ground.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 13, 2011 | 11:55 p.m.

I knew what you were doing, Chip. As evidenced in this quote from my earlier response to you: "You are not going to get me to change my stance on this issue Chip; no matter what terrible situation you put in front of me."

And thats cool.. I am fine with that. I think you'll find that depsite the fact that I just love to get people "stirred up" sometimes. And I find humor in many things that most people don't; like my "pubassistedboobs.com" rant or my "Speculation Machine" posts; thank Mr. Rosman for the "Speculation Machine" humor from me by the way.. I still stand solidly behind my ideals. My ideals are based on a lot of personal thought and consideration, they feel right to me. And because of this; I can defend them no matter what the situation.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)

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