Breaking News: Hate crime at KHS

As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Kirkwood Police Department and KSD administration did not establish the events that took place at KHS as a hate crime. TKC associates this as a hate crime due to the racial slurs depicted at the scene. For the purpose of this article, TKC will be addressing it as one.

 

UPDATE [Jan. 13 at 12:05 p.m.]

 

Gary Baldridge, KPD public information officer, released a statement on the Kirkwood Police Department’s behalf, which contained the names of the two adults arrested who were arrested for the vandalism crimes which occurred at three KSD schools on Wednesday, Jan. 6. The two adults, Christian Reese and Daniel Moore, both seniors at KHS, were arrested and charged with property damage for the damage reported at KHS, NKMS and Nipher Middle School. 

 

The third suspect, according to Baldridge, is a juvenile and their case will be referred to the St. Louis County Family Court for consideration.

 

This article will be continuously updated as more information is released.

 

UPDATE [Jan. 13 at 11:16 a.m.]

 

The Kirkwood Police Department (KPD) announced Wednesday, Jan. 13 that the perpetrators who committed the recent hate crime at KHS have been caught and prosecuted. Below contains the following statement released by the KPD.

 

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, starting at approximately 7:30 PM, three Kirkwood School District schools (Kirkwood High School, Nipher Middle School, and North Middle) reported property damage in the form of spray painted graffiti on the properties. Based on the nature of the graffiti, all three incidents are believed to be related.

 

The Kirkwood Police Department has completed our investigation. As a result of the investigation, three subjects have been identified.

 

Two of the suspects are adults. They were both arrested and charged with property damage for the damage reported at all three locations. The case will be sent to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for consideration.

 

The third suspect is a juvenile and his/her case will be referred to the St. Louis County Family Court for consideration. 

 

For additional information, contact: Officer Gary Baldridge

Public Information Officer

Office: 314-822-5868

 

Freddy Doss, KPD communications manager, said the KPD will not be releasing the names of the individuals charged for the crime. He added that the charges will be public information and therefore can be accessed by anyone who wishes to view them on websites such as case.net.

 

This article will be continuously updated as more information is released.

 

UPDATE [Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.]

 

Dr. David Ulrich, KSD superintendent, declined to comment on whether the KSD administration views the Jan. 6 vandalism at three KSD schools as a hate crime. However, he said, he does consider it hate speech. 

 

He said this during an interview with TKC Monday, Jan. 11 along with KSD Chief Communications Officer Ginger Cayce, KHS Principal Dr. Mike Havener and KSD Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Shonda Ambers-Phillips. 

 

The Kirkwood Police Department (KPD) released video footage and photos from the night of the vandalism capturing three suspects entering the east alley way of KHS by the West Jewell shortcut. One suspect appears to have on eyeglasses, as well as a distinct pattern on the back of his hoodie. Such photos are included in this article. Anyone who can help identify the individuals or who can assist the police with the investigation are asked to contact Detective Jennifer Burton at 314-984-6902 or [email protected].

 

“Make no mistake, this was hate speech,” Ulrich said. “If we find the folks who did it and attend our district, we have policies that go against hate speech that will be brought to bare for these students. It will be absolutely characterized out of our discipline policy as a hateful act.”

 

Since the incident, students and community members have been debating the classification of the crime. Due to the KPD not labeling this incident as a hate crime, multiple projects have been formed by students and community members. Brooke Mills, sophomore, created a petition to paint a mural over the recently vandalized areas. There have also been organized gatherings formed, such as a rally for POC before school on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 7:00 a.m. and a march to the KPD station that same day at 4 p.m.

 

Currently, KSD administration has a racial equity policy and an educational equity policy in subcommittees subject for revision to make them more personalized to the community. Phillips said the administration plans to continue promoting racial equality within the KSD.

 

“Hate cannot win, only love wins,” Phillips said. “We already have several plans in place, I don’t think anyone could have imagined this would happen. If there are things we can do to ensure this doesn’t happen again, we will do that.”

 

This article will be continuously updated as more information is released.

 

UPDATE [ Jan. 8 at 8:16 p.m.]

 

On Friday, Jan. 8, TKC received two statements from the Kirkwood Police Department (KPD), including the direct KPD definition of a hate crime. According to these statements, KPD is currently not labeling the events that took place Wednesday, Jan. 6 as a hate crime.

 

There has been no statement from the Kirkwood School District at this time. Repeated attempts to contact the KSD superintendent’s office the past 48 hours were left unanswered. Ginger Cayce, KSD chief communications officer, said Friday, Jan. 8 at 4:40 p.m. the KSD administration would comment Monday, Jan. 11 at 11:15 a.m.

 

TKC also interviewed three KSD principals about the incidents: Dr. Mike Havener, KHS principal; Dr. Tim Cochran, NKMS principal;  Dr. Laura Havener, Nipher Middle School principal. 

 

TKC would also like to remind our readers that KSD and KPD operate separately, and therefore will be giving out separate punishments/prosecutions.

 

KPD Update

Gary Baldridge, KPD public information officer, provided TKC with KPD’s legal definitions of a hate crime. Such definitions read as follows:

 

(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following terms mean:

 

  1. “Disability,” a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities, being regarded as having such an impairment, or a record of having such an impairment; and
  2. “Sexual orientation,” male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, and transgendered by inclination, practice, identity or expression, or having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s gender.

 

(b) For all violations of the following ordinances which the City believes to be knowingly motivated because of the race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim or victims, the City may charge the crime or crimes under this section:

  1. Sections 17-12 and 17-13, relating to assault;
  2. Section 17-15, relating to harassment;
  3. Sections 17-103 and 17-104, relating to damaging, defacing property or another;
  4. Sections 17-106, 17-107, 17-108 relating to trespass;
  5. Section 17-85, relating to possession of dangerous weapons; or
  6. Section 17-84, relating to concealed weapons.

 

(c) Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this ordinance shall, upon conviction thereof, be subject to the penalty provided in Chapter 1, § 1-8 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Kirkwood, but in no event shall the penalty be less than $500.

 

Baldridge issued a statement to TKC Friday, Jan. 8 at 1:56 p.m. outlining the classification of the current investigation into vandalism at three KSD schools Wednesday, Jan. 6. The statement reads as follows:

 

To protect the integrity of the investigation, the Police Department will not comment on the content of the graffiti. With that being said, appropriate charges, fitting to the crime, will be filed when the culprits are arrested.

 

In addition, on Friday, Jan. 8 at 5:45 p.m. Freddy Doss, KPD communications manager, issued another statement to TKC regarding the vandalism across KSD schools on Wednesday, Jan. 6:

 

The Kirkwood Police Department is currently investigating incidents of vandalism that occurred on Wednesday January 6th at a few schools in Kirkwood. This incident is being investigated following the same standards that all other crimes in our community are investigated. The investigation is ongoing and being overseen by Chief of Police Brian Murphy.

 

Upon completion of the investigation, the findings will be referred to a prosecutor who will make an independent charging decision, which may or may not include a hate crime enhancement. The Kirkwood Police Department is committed to investigating this matter as thoroughly and efficiently as possible.

 

As a community, Kirkwood stands firmly against racially-motivated violence and hate crimes committed because of any person’s race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

 

KSD Update

 

Dr. Mike Havener, KHS principal, said the investigation is still ongoing. No suspects have been identified, no arrests have been made and it has not been established that the perpetrators attend KHS. At each crime scene, both red and white spray paint were used to write racial slurs and profanity on the walls of the KSD buildings.

 

“I don’t have a background on what constitutes a hate crime, but in my personal opinion, this incident falls under the definition of a hate crime,” Mike Havener said. “We are, as a school, taking this as a very serious racial crime, [and] KHS is taking this as the highest level [of] offense possible.”

 

This is inexcusable. It’s awful and the students, staff and community don’t deserve this.”

— Dr. Michael Havener

 

Although KSD and the KPD are operating separately, Havener said he will be recommending the highest level punishment possible if the people responsible attend KHS: expulsion or removal from campus. This means those responsible would have educational services somewhere other than KHS, such as the VISTA program off campus; however, a principal does not have the authority under Missouri law to suspend a student for over 10 days without a hearing.

 

“We are in the initial stages [of the investigation],” Mike Havener said. “After the culprits are caught, there would be an initial hearing [if those responsible attend KHS] consisting of representatives of the central office, a grade level principal and representatives of those who are accused of the crime. If it is appealed, it could go all the way to the [KSD] board of education, depending on what happens at that stage.”

 

Although there still is a long way to go within the investigation, Mike Havener said he hopes to ease the minds of students. He said he wants KHS to be a place where everyone can feel safe.

 

“This is inexcusable,” Havener said. “It’s awful and the students, staff and community don’t deserve this. I’ve had some people reach out to me saying that [they will be participating in virtual learning the rest of the year due to this incident] and that’s the part that hurts, that people don’t feel safe. Any and all students and staff members don’t deserve that. It’s heartbreaking. We are going to do anything and everything we can to change that.”

 

Dr. Tim Cochran, NKMS principal, is also actively participating in the KSD investigation. According to Cochran, he was notified of the incident at NKMS at approximately 10:30 p.m.

 

“Do I think [the crime was] hateful? 100%,” Cochran said. “One thing to keep in mind is all of these events took place roughly between three hours. Walking from KHS to Nipher and NKMS, that takes a lot of time. So one of the first things that I asked [during a Zoom meeting with KSD Superintendent Dr. David Ulrich] was if a car was involved, which means there had to be some kind of driver.”

 

The only thing I think I can do is apologize to the people it hits the hardest and do everything I can by emphasizing how we have a lot more in common than uncommon and we need to focus on taking care of each other.”

— Dr. Cochran

 

According to Cochran, KHS staff members have been asking for new security equipment for 20 years. He said the need to make sure that KSD has more cameras inside and outside of the buildings was one of the first things he talked about with Dr. Ulrich during their Zoom meeting. 

 

Cochran, like Dr. Michael Havener, said he hopes students and staff members can feel safe as soon as they set foot on the NKMS campus. He wants to assure this by promoting more conversation throughout the school.

 

“Our students need to be heard and need to be able to share what their opinions are,” Cochran said. “We have to give them the opportunity to share their feelings, especially throughout this situation. We had a Zoom meeting with teachers before we talked about the incident with the students. Some were teachers of color and I said ‘I’m so sorry that this happened.’ They should feel safe coming to work. They should feel safe coming here as an adult. It’s just hateful and hurtful. The only thing I think I can do is apologize to the people it hits the hardest and do everything I can by emphasizing how we have a lot more in common than uncommon and we need to focus on taking care of each other.”

 

Dr. Laura Havener, Nipher principal, was notified of the vandalism the following day after it took place. She, along with Cochran, met with KSD administration to create a plan of addressing it to middle school staff, parents and students. Laura Havener said Nipher is planning additional district provided social-emotional lessons for students. She hopes these can assist in continually building relationships and trust in the Kirkwood community by showing compassion for others.

 

As parents, we reassure our own kids that we are going to be there to protect and care for them and I want the same for every student who enters our school.”

— Dr. Laura Havener

 

“Our motto is ‘You belong at Nipher,’ and I don’t want it to just be a saying,” Laura Havener said. “I have two daughters, so when I come to work everyday, my goal and my hope is to make sure every kid is treated the way I would want my own daughters to be treated. I send them to school everyday hoping they are loved and cared for, and I expect the same for every single student at Nipher. As parents, we reassure our own kids that we are going to be there to protect and care for them and I want the same for every student who enters our school.”

 

This article will be continuously updated as more information is released.

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On Wednesday, Jan. 6 at approximately 6:30 p.m. a group of KHS students reported a hate crime consisting of vandalism on the right side of the KHS building near the Essex parking lot. The scene consisted of spray paint depicting racial slurs and hate speech against a former KSD administrator. Police believe to have a few leads in the case and encourage anyone with information of the crime to contact the Kirkwood Police Department directly or message any KHS staff member.

 

According to an email sent by Dr. Dave Ulrich, KSD superintendent, similar events occurred the same night at Nipher Middle School and North Kirkwood Middle School. He assured parents and staff that a “full investigation is underway” and that KSD “District administration and Board of Education strongly condemn racism, hate speech and acts of vandalism.”

 

Gary Baldridge, Kirkwood Police Department’s Public Information Officer (PIO), stated that the crime which took place is not being considered a hate crime by the Kirkwood Police Department. Although most information pertaining directly to the case cannot be released since it is considered an actively open investigation, he said the Detective Bureau, reporting officer at the crime and the KHS school resource officers are working the case.

 

“Based on my knowledge, the punishment [for the individual responsible] will mainly be monetary expenses,” Baldridge said. “The crime is considered an ordinance violation, since it is a city charge if property damage. If the damage exceeds $750, then it will be considered a first degree property felony and go to the county and state court. If the damage is under $750, the individual responsible may have to pay back a fine and participate in community service. All punishments are subject to a judge’s discretion.”

 

Dr. Mike Havener, KHS principal, addressed the school on Thursday, Jan. 7 encouraging any student with information to disclose it to the police. According to Havener, KSD will also be punishing the person responsible to their fullest extent.

 

“KHS is committed to recommending the highest level of school punishment for the racial and hateful acts that occurred last night,” Havener said. TKC is still awaiting comment from KSD superintendent’s office.

 

As reported in the article, KPD is currently not labeling the events described as a hate crime. The Call, using the FBI’s definition of “hate crime,” is labeling it as such.

 

This article will be continuously updated as more information is released.