UC-Berkeley reopens investigation into assault on conservative activist, days after announcing its end
University of California-Berkeley officials say that campus police have reopened an investigation into the assault on a conservative activist who was manning a recruitment table on campus.
Earlier this week, officials said the investigation had ended, and police were seeking a felony arrest warrant from the Alameda County District Attorney Office.
The new announcement, which offered no details, was the latest in a series of delays and cryptic messages from authorities relating to the Feb. 19 attack, which was captured on video and clearly shows the face of the apparent attacker.
The new delay in the case drew the ire of the organization for which the activist, Hayden Williams, was manning the recruitment table.
“This is astonishing - what extra work needs to be done?” said Charlie Kirk, the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, which plans to establish a chapter at Berkeley. “The assault was clearly captured on video. If the attacker was wearing a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat this case would be wrapped up by now, daily press conferences would be occurring, and arrests would have already happened.”
University officials, who have come under attack on social media and mostly conservative-leaning media outlets for the largely muted and delayed responses to the alleged assault, have denied they are handling the incident with less urgency because the apparent victim is conservative.
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After the outcry about the university's response last week, UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton said in a statement: "Let there be no mistake, we strongly condemn violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason. That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here. Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering."
The Turning Point table that Berkeley student Guillermina Castro and Williams set up last week had recruitment materials and signs, including some that were pro-Donald Trump, and which were critical of false bias crime allegations, a reference to the actor Jussie Smollett.
Williams, 26, who is not a student but is a field representative for the conservative group The Leadership Institute, was approached by two men who, he said, reacted with antagonism to the signs. One of them punched Williams several times. The recruitment table was knocked over and signs were ripped, according to a UC-Berkeley alert on its website. Williams told Fox News last week the alleged attacker also threatened to shoot him.
On Friday, The Leadership Institute's newspaper, Campus Reform, reported that Williams has hired a lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, to pursue legal action against his alleged attacker. It quoted a Leadership Institute vice president, Bryan Bernys, as saying: "Holding this attacker accountable by pursuing legal action is a step toward protecting free speech for conservatives on college campuses across the country. Conservatives have a right to free speech and shouldn’t be attacked for it – on or off college campuses."
UC-Berkeley's media relations department said in a statement: “We have been in touch with the DA, and our police force is now doing some additional investigative work necessary for a determination of charges and/or the issuance of a warrant for the suspect’s arrest.”
The police department told Fox News they “don't have any information that can be released regarding the Sproul Plaza incident.”
A request from Fox News to speak with UC-Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett was denied. Both the police department and university officials referred reporters to the university’s media relations office, which provided the same prepared statement, which offered little insight as to why the investigation apparently has been reopened.
Last Friday, university police announced they had identified a suspect, and said he was not a student or affiliated in any way with the university. But the announcement, which said the investigation into the assault continued, did not name the man, or offer any other details.
Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, had said the police department had concluded its investigation and was "seeking a felony warrant from the Alameda County District Attorney for the identified suspect."
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The Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, Teresa Drenick, did not respond to a message from Fox News. She told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday: "The matter has not yet been formally submitted for consideration of charging and the investigation is ongoing."