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.
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.