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University of Texas at Austin investigating 'bleach bomb' attacks

October 05, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A view of the University of Texas' main building from Littlefield Fountain.
A view of the University of Texas' main building from Littlefield… (University of Texas )

HOUSTON -- Police at the University of Texas at Austin are investigating reports that four students have been assaulted with bleach-filled balloons while walking near campus.

The four alleged victims of the "bleach bomb" incidents, which occurred between June and September, were Asian or African American.

"They did not file reports when the alleged incidents happened. Our chief of police heard about the incidents through the grapevine and sought out the victims," asking them to file reports, Cindy Posey, spokeswoman for campus police, told the Los Angeles Times. The alleged victims did so on Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

Police, however, have not confirmed that the balloons were filled with bleach, or that the attacks happened, Posey said.

"There's been no proof," such as bleach-stained clothing, Posey said, but she added that the investigation is ongoing. "Nobody's denying that it's happening."

"We want our students to feel safe on campus and in West Campus," she said, referring to the off-campus neighborhood where the attacks allegedly occurred.

Posey said that pranks -- especially dropping items on people from balconies -- are common on the sprawling campus, which has more than 50,000 students.

"It is assault -- if you get hit with something," she said. Addressing the possibility that students were targeted because of their race, she stressed: "UT is so opposed to any kind of racial violence like that."

Austin police are also investigating the reported attacks, Posey said.

On Tuesday, dozens of people gathered at a campus statue of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to protest the alleged attacks. Sophomore Taylor Carr, who said he was attacked with a bleach bomb, addressed demonstrators.

"It is people of color they are attacking in West Campus," Carr said, according to the campus newspaper, the Horn. "Until we put pressure on the university to [protect] us, these events are going to keep happening."

Jaysen Runnels, an African American student, told KVUE-TV that he was hit twice by the balloons, dropped from high-rise buildings.

"It's very frustrating to know that it's 2012 and that stuff like this still happens," Runnels said.

The university's fraternity/sorority community recently faced criticism for racially themed parties, including a "Fiesta" event at which guests wore shirts saying "Illegal" and "Border Patrol."

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Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf.

Email: molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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