WUPD arrested a person in connection with Underpass vandalism over a month ago, University reveals

and | Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief
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The Washington University Police Department arrested the person on Dec. 23 and the University is requesting that the St. Louis County prosecutor press charges.

The Washington University Police Department arrested a person in connection with the white supremacist vandalism of the South 40 Underpass Black history mural, University leadership announced in an email to community members Thursday afternoon. 

The arrest took place on Dec. 23, WUPD interim chief Dave Goodwin wrote in an email to Student Life Thursday, but administrators did not communicate that date in Thursday afternoon’s email. 

We’ve been planning to provide an update to our community when the investigation allowed for us to do so, and also if and when we knew whether charges would be filed in the case,” Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications Julie Flory wrote Thursday in an email response to Student Life’s question as to why the University did not announce the arrest information sooner. “We’ve been careful not to share information that could compromise the investigation as it’s been underway. In the past few days we began to feel that we were in a place where we could provide an update and we did so today.”

The arrested person is not a member of the University community, administrators wrote. The University has requested that charges be filed through the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office, but the person, whom the University did not publicly identify, is no longer in custody. 

While students and administrators repainted the vandalized mural panels earlier this week, the University had not provided an update on the vandalism since Chancellor Andrew Martin and other leaders sent an email to the community the day after the vandalism. 

Student Life had inquired over winter break about updates regarding the University’s investigation into the mural vandalism, but Flory wrote in a Dec. 27 email that there were “no updates to report.”

In response to Student Life’s Jan. 23 request for an interview with Goodwin about the vandalism investigation, Flory wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon that University leadership could not discuss the case since the investigation was still ongoing. When Student Life followed up Thursday morning to inquire about a “suspect arrested,” according to an entry in the Washington University Police Department’s crime log, Flory replied that she was not aware of an arrest before following up that the University would provide information to the community later in the day.

A painted mural of a man in a suit and red tie (and the text John Lewis to the left of his face) is covered by a white paint-like substance

The painting of Rep. John Lewis on the Underpass mural after students cleaned off some of the vandalism. (Photo by Curran Neenan / Student Life)

Goodwin wrote in his Thursday email to Student Life that Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) was “instrumental in this investigation,” and the email from administrators said that footage from cameras near the underpass had helped identify the person of interest. 

Leaks from the Discord servers of Patriot Front, the white supremacist group whose logo was spray-painted over the murals and whose flyers were seen on campus this fall, have exposed members of the organization committing similar acts of vandalism around the country. Goodwin said that the leaks did not factor into this arrest, but that WUPD was aware of them and would “continue to pursue all relevant leads.”

Some of the leaked Patriot Front documents appear to shed light on how members of the group planned the mural’s vandalism. 

A document that contains what appear to be notes from a Dec. 12 meeting mentions the University by name. “Randolph_IL, Sam_MN, Kyle MO, and Clarke IL will stencil at Wash U,” a bullet point reads, using aliases to describe members, with a second bullet point adding “Randy will plan, Kyle will photograph.”

According to the leaked documents, on one messaging platform, RocketChat, Patriot Front members discussed plans for an upcoming vandalism. Yeah. Saturday is probably best. I need to scout out the dorms to the south of the tunnel,” Randolph_IL wrote in a direct message to Kyle_MO on Dec. 15. “That’s the best place to park if it isn’t riddled with cameras.”  

“Planning on late Saturday night for stenciling,” Randolph_IL wrote the next day in a message to Carter_MO. “Most students will probably be gone for break.” 

Many students have decried the University’s response to the vandalism, with a coalition of Black students writing in December that “Black students at Washington University are disillusioned by the vandalism and reaction from campus authorities.” The coalition, which included the Association of Black Students, Students for Black and Palestinian Liberation and the Black Senior Alliance, called for the University to be transparent about the vandalism investigation and to reassess the role of WUPD on campus.

Going forward, Goodwin said that information from WUPD’s investigation has been presented to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine whether to issue charges. 

“We will defer to the prosecutor and the judicial system in determining the appropriate charges and penalties,” Goodwin wrote.

This is a breaking story. Student Life will continue to follow up with comments from the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office, relevant student groups and other relevant individuals.

If you have information about this situation, you can email [email protected] or fill out the Student Life tip form

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