Police say a professor damaged her own car, but she denies it. Last week’s incident sparked anti-racism rallies.
Joy Buchanan, Kristina Sauerwein and Stuart Silverstein, L. A. Times, Mar. 18, 2004
A week after a reported campus hate crime drew national attention, sparked protests and shut down the prestigious Claremont Colleges, police on Wednesday called the incident a hoax staged by a professor who slashed tires, shattered windows and spray-painted racist graffiti on her own car.
Claremont McKenna College psychology professor Kerri Dunn, who had told police that her car was vandalized as she spoke at a March 9 forum on racism, was identified by two eyewitnesses as the person who damaged the auto, authorities said Wednesday.
She was not arrested, but Claremont Police Lt. Stan Van Horn said the case would be sent to the Los Angeles County district attorney for review and that the likely charge would be filing a false police report, a misdemeanor. The FBI said she might face more serious felony charges of lying to federal investigators.
Campus leaders last week had condemned the vandalism as a hate crime, shut down the Claremont consortium of colleges for a day of anti-hate rallies and called in FBI investigators. The police contention that Dunn staged the incident triggered a wave of anger against her Wednesday and fears that students would become cynical about racism.
Dunn, 39, is a white woman who has spoken publicly about how she was considering converting from Catholicism to Judaism and has urged students to fight racism. On Wednesday, Dunn denied police claims and said she was “enraged” by their comments.
“This is like a very big deal if they think I’m a suspect,” Dunn said in the doorway of her Redlands home. “I didn’t want any of this from the beginning. This is so overshadowing the bigger problem on campus, which is that the administration has turned its head regularly on hate speech and hate crimes.”
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