SAN JOSE Three white San Jose State students, including one from Clovis, were charged with a hate crime and suspended pending disciplinary action over allegations they racially bullied their black roommate.
Prosecutors this week charged the three with misdemeanor hate crime and battery for the incidents. The men are Joseph Bomgardner, 19, of Clovis; Logan Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield; and Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre in Marin County. Their arraignments are expected in mid-December.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to as much as a year in county jail.
They are accused of putting a bicycle lock on the student's neck, taunting him with a racial epithet and slurs, and barricading him inside his bedroom in the suite they shared.
The students have not been arrested, but the school is trying to arrange for them to turn themselves in, campus Police Chief Peter Decena said.
In the day since the story broke, anger boiled over among students, professors, instructors and alums. The school has had numerous phone calls and emails demanding the administration strongly respond to the allegations of racial bullying.
At noon on Thursday a large gathering of students marched across campus chanting, "No justice! No peace!" The line grew so long that those at the rear were chanting out of sync with those at the front.
The marchers finally gathered around the base of the famed statue of Lemoore High graduate Tommie Smith and John Carlos, San Jose State alums who famously raised "black power" clenched fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The ethnically diverse crowd passionately called for the university to swiftly strike down open racism.
According to police reports, the white roommates nicknamed the black freshman "Three-fifths," referring to the way the United States once counted blacks as a fraction of a person. When he protested, they dubbed him "Fraction."
They outfitted the four-bedroom dormitory suite they shared with a Confederate flag. They locked him in his room. They wrote the "N-word" on a dry-erase board in the living room.
"I can't believe in the year 2013 we're talking about an African-American being treated like this," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a CNN interview.
Rosen has charged only three of the seven young men who lived in the suite, but he criticized the others.
"They were not upstanders, they did not stand up and do what was right here," he said, adding that there was no way these were mere pranks.
Beaschler declined comment. The Mercury News could not reach Warren or Bomgardner. It was unclear whether they had attorneys.
The alleged harassment began in late August when the freshman and the other men moved into an on-campus suite they were assigned. Eight weeks later, in mid-October, the freshman's parents noticed a Confederate flag draped over a cardboard cutout of Elvis in the living room and a dry-erase board with the "N-word" scrawled on it. They reported it via housing officials to campus police. Two of the young men were immediately transferred to a different dorm.
But at least two residential assistants were aware before then that one of the roommates had tacked a Confederate flag to a bedroom window. They "asked" the young men to take it down "so it could not be seen by the general public," but did not investigate further, according to university police reports and campus-housing department memos.
The freshman, now 18, said in a brief telephone interview that he's never experienced such treatment, even though he was one of only a few black students at his high school in Santa Cruz. The Mercury News is not naming him at his parents' request because of the ongoing campus investigation.
The young men acknowledged during police interviews that they incessantly harassed the then-17-year-old, according to the reports. But they described their actions as "pranks" and "jokes," denying that they were racist.
University police, however, recommended that the district attorney file hate crime charges.
Police reports, documents prepared by housing officials and photographs document the freshman's ordeal. The events allegedly occurred after everyone in the suite attended a two-day orientation session this summer that included sensitivity training.
(The Fresno Bee was unable to find contact information for Bomgardner in Clovis. According to a university police report, Bomgardner in an Oct. 28 interview told a campus police officer that he felt like he had succumbed to peer pressure and that relations had improved in the suite since Beaschler and Warren were moved to a different suite.)