The University of Wisconsin Police Department referred a hate crime charge against a Madison man after he said a racial slur to a student last month.
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At about 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 16, a UW student of Asian descent was walking home from the Nicholas Recreation Center when a man approached him. A UWPD report said that 34-year-old Gary Stephens of Madison slapped the victim’s phone from his hand without being provoked, smashing it on the ground. Stephens uttered a racial slur to the student, according to the report.

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For two weeks after the incident, UWPD investigators used witness statements and security camera footage to identify Stevens as a suspect. Stephens was arrested Oct. 30 by the City of Madison Police Department on separate charges.

On Nov. 1, UWPD referred the charges of disorderly conduct with a hate crime enhancer, criminal damage to property and
bail jumping. All of the charges are misdemeanors, court records show.

Stevens was also banned from the UW campus, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

UWPD did its “due diligence in finding those responsible and holding them accountable,” UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said.

Though there has not been a notable increase in hate crimes on campus, Lovicott said these incidents remain a troubling issue.

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This is the second report of a hate crime on campus this semester.

Last month, a man crossed the street, stopped a few feet away from a student, spat in her face and made statements about COVID-19, according to a UWPD statement. The student was walking on West Dayton Street near Ogg Hall at the time of the incident.

“It is important to note that these two incidents involve suspects who are not affiliated with the university — but they came to the university to commit these crimes,” Lovicott said. “As Chapter 17 of the UW System code states, ‘the university can accomplish its educational mission only if living and learning environments are safe and free from violence, harassment and intimidation.’”

Lovicott said the department’s role is to make sure the campus community understands UWPD takes these incidents seriously and will not tolerate these incidents on campus.