WWU student charged for malicious harassment, pleads not guilty
Update, Dec. 11 12:09 p.m. : At his arraignment Friday morning, Dec. 11, Western student Tysen Campbell, 19, plead not guilty to the malicious harassment charges being made against him after allegedly making a racially-charged comment against AS President Belina Seare, the clerk’s office of the Superior Court of Whatcom County said.
Campbell acknowledged that he understood the consequences should he not comply with the order demanding that he refrains from all contact with Seare.
Seare attended Campbell’s arraignment with friends but declined to comment at this time.
Campbell, 19, is free on bail pending his arraignment Friday, Dec. 11.
The comment “Let’s lynch her” was made on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app at 8:09 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, after anonymous users discussed remarks reportedly made on Seare’s personal Facebook.
Users claimed that Seare had called “white college students” the “baby kkk,” according to charging documents.
After the cancellation of all Western classes on Nov. 24, university President Bruce Shepard continued communication with students and issued a statement on Nov. 27 which confirmed that the post, “Let’s lynch her,” was made on Yik Yak.
Campbell said his comment was made after finding Seare’s alleged remark “distasteful,” the charging document stated. He quickly deleted the comment after it made him uncomfortable, Campbell said in the charging documents.
Although he denies knowing Seare personally, Campbell assumed she was “Middle Eastern” or “African American” based off the her alleged comment regarding ‘white college students,’ according to the charging documents.
When asked how Seare would feel reading his post, Campbell said that “she would feel threatened,” and confirmed that he was aware of the history of “lynching,” according to the charging documents. His intention was not to lynch anyone or do anything in relation to the Ku Klux Klan, Campbell said in the charging documents.
Seare was reached for comment regarding this case but did not respond in time for publication.
On Nov. 25, Seare issued a letter describing inadequate safety options provided by campus police and held a press conference discussing her experience.
On Nov. 23, Seare was alerted to the anonymous comments being made on 4Chan, an anonymous online message board, including a picture of Seare along with an unidentified comment which read, “Here’s one of the niggers who started the whole thing,” according to charging documents.
Abby Ramos, the AS Vice President for Diversity, alerted Seare of the lynching comments and met with University Police that night to express their concern, according to charging documents.
Seare was “petrified to even leave the police station that night,” according to charging documents.
Shepard issued a statement to the campus community Friday, Nov 27, affirming that campus police had made several attempts to contact Seare but had not received a response. Shepard specified the nature of the Yik Yak post being, “Let’s lynch her” as well as other hateful comments that followed.
A week prior to the Yik Yak posts, The Western Front wrote an article about a professor and a small group of students interested in starting a dialogue to gauge student opinion about the Viking mascot.
The article voiced comments referring to the Western Viking as being “hyper masculine” and “violent.” The coverage gained momentum and was picked up by KIRO-7, and posted on an online discussion board on 4Chan. Western student Sierra Tryon expressed concerns to Dean of Student Engagement and Director of Vikings Facilities, Eric Alexander after seeing derogatory comments on a KIRO-7 poll.
Discussion surrounding the article led to racially charged comments against Seare and Ramos from anonymous users on 4Chan, charging documents stated.
Malicious harassment is a class C felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison, according to state law.
Additional comments made on social media are still under investigation by University police and no additional arrests or subpoenas have been issued at this time, University Communications Director Paul Cocke said in an email.