The U.S. Air Force Academy has released a 174-page report of an investigation into anti-black racial messages that turned out to be a hoax.
A black cadet candidate who wrote the messages initially attempted to blame two of his classmates for the writings, the report shows. The writings appeared on message boards outside of his own room and that of four other black cadet candidates on Sept. 25.
That perpetrator later blamed a concussion for his actions after failing a polygraph test conducted on Oct. 24. The hoax incident was shared with the media on Nov. 7.
The report, obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation through the Freedom of Information Act, also suggests investigators had suspicions about the suspect early on in the investigation.
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The incident, which occurred at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado, gained national attention after Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria gave a speech denouncing the incident.
“Go home n*gger,” read the message.
Silveria gathered Air Force Academy cadets and faculty two days later for a speech that went viral and earned him interviews on CNN.
“And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” Silveria said in the speech, suggesting that he believed at the time that the culprits were not African-American.
He also cited racially charged events in Charlottesville, Va., and Ferguson, Mo., to extol the “power of diversity.”
CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and Jim Sciutto interviewed Silveria separately, praising his remarks and contrasting them with what they said was President Donald Trump’s divisiveness on race.
Silveria also accepted an award on Nov. 14 from the Anti-Defamation League because of his handling of the incident.
In his acceptance speech, Silveria said that he disagreed with critics who claimed his initial remarks were out of line given that the underlying incident was a hoax.
“Regardless of who wrote the words, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of who put that slur on the wall, it was written,” Silveria said. “Whoever wrote it, it was still written. And so, dignity and respect cannot be overemphasized.”
The investigative report shows that the cadet candidate admitted to writing the racial remarks on Oct. 24. The Air Force Academy appears to have withheld the information for nearly two weeks. The perpetrator’s admission of guilt was not reported until Nov. 7 by the Colorado Springs Gazette.
A spokesman for the Academy insisted there was no delay in disclosing the background of the perpetrator.
“Once that information was confirmed through the complete investigation, it was shared publicly with the media as well as cadets, faculty and staff,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage told TheDCNF.
The investigative report, written by the United States Air Force Security Police, lays out a detailed timeline of the investigation into the incident.
Officials conducted interviews with more than a dozen witnesses and the five cadet candidates between Sept. 26 and Sept. 29, according to the report.
Investigators began comparing handwriting samples on Oct. 2 to what was written on the white board messages. A forensic examiner looked at the samples three days later and picked out one that was of interest.
Investigators interviewed the suspected cadet candidate on Oct. 16 and he denied writing the messages. He finally admitted to writing the messages on Oct. 24, after being given a polygraph.
The perpetrator suspected that two other cadet candidates may have written the messages, he said in his Sept. 26 interview. One “has been keeping his head down during the briefings,” he said.
Two cadet candidates took photos of another’s homework to compare the handwriting on the documents, he also said. “We compared the handwriting [redacted] to the photos of the message boards and noticed it was very similar,” said the guilty cadet candidate.
There is some indication that investigators suspected the cadet candidate was not telling the truth in his initial interview, which was conducted two days before Silveria’s speech.
He was the only alleged victim to be asked a series of follow-up questions after his initial statement.
The cadet candidate again denied writing the messages in an interview conducted on Oct. 16. He was listed as a suspect during that interview, the report shows.
He said for the first time in that interview that he was suffering from a head trauma of some sort at the time of the incident. He said he received treatment two days before that interview.
The cadet candidate, who was kicked out of the prep school, later agreed to undergo a polygraph test. After the test indicated deception, he copped to writing the messages himself.
“I was struggling with a concussion therefore I wasn’t myself,” he wrote in a confession statement. “I then wrote the racial slur halfway onto the board erased it, then did it again to the 5 boards. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before. I should’ve just gotten treatment for my head.”
The cadet candidate was removed from the prep school after the incident.
Herritage, the spokesman for the Air Force Academy, said that the school is unable to divulge some details of the investigation, such as whether the suspect actually suffered from a concussion or faced other disciplinary action. He was also unable to discuss the suspect’s apparent attempt to blame classmates for the incident and to say when investigators first suspected the incident of being a hoax. He said the information is protected because it falls under investigators’ deliberative process.
Herritage did indicate that the school stands by Silveria’s statements on the incident prior to finding out it was a fabrication.
“An awful, divisive and hurtful word was written multiple times in a location frequented by hundreds of cadet candidates,” Herritage told TheDCNF.
“No matter who wrote the slur, the fact remains that numerous cadet candidates saw it written at their academy, an academy that emphasizes dignity and respect,” he continued, adding that Silveria “acted quickly and appropriately.”
This report, by Chuck Ross, was cross posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.