- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

Police in Charlottesville have arrested 10 black teen-agers in connection with a series of attacks on University of Virginia students who were white "or white in appearance," according to city officials.
The six asssaults, which occurred between September and January, generally occurred at night, police said. The attackers, who were both males and females, jumped students walking on roads adjacent to the campus. Police said not all 10 teen-agers participated in each attack, usually splitting into smaller groups.
Charlottesville Police Lt. J.W. Gibson said the arrests were made after police received similar descriptions from witnesses to the last two attacks, and the subject of race emerged as a possible motivating factor.
"Three of those we arrested did say they considered race in targeting their victim," he said.
In the most recent attack, which occurred at about 10:15 p.m. Jan. 25, four males and two females approached four male university students as they walked along a road near the campus.
The attackers started punching and kicking the students, leaving one with a concussion.
Lt. Gibson said 11 persons, both male and female, were left with superficial wounds and sore ribs to a broken cheekbone in the six incidents. In at least one case, he said, the victims were robbed.
Police said they have interviewed about 20 teens in connection with the attacks, some of whom were white. Some of those teens could still face charges, but police believe they have arrested all of the teens who took part in the actual beatings.
The teens involved face charges ranging from misdemeanor assault to felony assault and malicious wounding, but authorities have thus far stopped short of characterizing the crimes as hate crimes. Charlottesville Mayor Blake Caravati said the decision whether hate-crime charges will be filed rests with Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.
"This investigation is ongoing, and nobody knows whether it was racially motivated or not," Mr. Caravati said. "In Charlottesville, we take a very aggressive stance dealing with these issues. We don't need outside groups to help us of any stripe."
Mr. Chapman did not return repeated phone calls over several days
In a public statement on the incidents, the mayor referred to "a long history of distrust" between the city's black and white population and said he's met with black community leaders to address those issues.
He also said there's a "town and gown" split between residents and university students, who make up about 40 percent of the town's population of 45,000.
"This is something that has been historic, although it has never manifested itself like this," he said.
Student Council President Abby Fifer, a senior from Roanoke, said the incidents have not polarized the campus community, adding she was not aware of them until police circulated an e-mail with a drawing of one of the attackers in January. But if the motive for the attacks was resentment of the academic population, it would come as no surprise to her.
"I hate to say it, but I think the students of UVa. have never had the best relationship with the residents of Charlottesville," she said, adding that it's widely known among students that "the honor system does not extend to the town of Charlottesville."
City officials were familiar with some of the teen-agers involved in the attacks, and while they wouldn't provide their names, they said the teens were not the type thought to be involved.
Mr. Caravati described some of the juveniles charged as "very accomplished."
"A lot of these kids, when they came in, we were just befuddled how they got into this thing," Lt. Gibson said. "You can't help but wonder what happened."
As for his theory of why the attacks occurred:
"My feeling is the prime motivation was thrill," Lt. Gibson said. "Even if race was an issue, I think it was a secondary concern."

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