FBI joins American University hate crime investigation

WASHINGTON — The FBI is now involved in the investigation of what’s being called “a racially motivated hate crime” at American University, in which bananas tied in string nooses were hung in several places on campus.

Campus police are thanking the public for tips they’ve received following Tuesday’s release of two surveillance videos of a person of interest, who was seen walking alone on campus, the night the tropical fruit was left hanging from trees and lampposts.

The FBI told WTOP university police called Tuesday, and the bureau offered its assistance in the hate-crime investigation.

The bananas were discovered Monday, the same day the university’s first black student government leader took office.

Short messages scrawled on the bananas included “AKA free,” apparently referring to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, of which Taylor Dumpson, the newly-elected president, is a member. AKA is the oldest Greek-letter organization established in the U.S. by black college women.

Another message, “Harambe Bait,” refers to the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was killed last year after a young child fell into the ape’s enclosure.

On Wednesday, students, faculty members, and staff were invited to a campus meeting to discuss racism.

In a small room in the student union, the group discussed ways in which they could support each other during this, and other cases of racism. In one exchange, participants noted that a fire alarm is a clear warning of an impending risk, while racism is a more subtle danger.

A reward for assistance in identifying the person of interest shown in the surveillance video has been raised to $1,000.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up