Haters at play
Police arrest two Chico students for racist graffiti spree
When Deric Braito was arrested for allegedly threatening to send anthrax to the Chico News & Review last May, he told police, “I’m not a terrorist.” When he and an accomplice were busted last week for drawing swastikas and writing the words “fuck niggers,” “fuck Mexicans” and “I am a Nazi” on doors and walls at Whitney Hall, Braito admitted to the crime but told police, “I’m not a racist.”
Deric, have you ever considered that maybe you’re just an idiot?
University police arrested Braito, 22, a Chico State engineering student, along with his friend and alleged accomplice, Timothy Simmons, 21, a Chico State art student, and charged them each with a felony count of vandalism with an added hate crime enhancement. The charges could send both men to state prison for six years.
Braito reportedly told investigators he and Simmons had scrawled the offensive symbols and phrases “just to disturb someone.” At a rally attended by about 300 people at the campus Free Speech Area Tuesday, dozens of students and faculty members took the stage to express that they were indeed disturbed. Some recited poems, some made calls to action and others urged students to look inside themselves and question their own attitudes.
“Our nation is toxic with all these ‘isms’ floating through the air,” said sociology Professor Nandi Crosby. “We need to talk about these things. We need to begin to recognize our differences, be proud of our differences. We need to allow our differences to be part of the richness of our relationships.”
Journalism senior Latasha Holcomb stood up to tell the crowd how she felt after a fellow student recently called her a “fucking nigger.”
“I don’t need to be mentioned in the paper to know that my feelings were hurt,” Holcolmb said. “I am very determined to be here. I earned the right to be here. We are all here for one reason, and that’s to get an education.”
University Provost Scott McNall vowed the administration would “not sit in silence while members of our community suffer assaults on their well-being and dignity.”
Braito and Simmons are currently being held in the Butte County Jail in lieu of posting $30,000 bail. The two were arrested separately March 4, one in a parking lot near Nord Avenue and one at Braito’s residence on the same street, said University Police Sgt. Robyn Hearne.
Police are investigating the crime in conjunction with two similar incidents, one in which offensive symbols and words were spray-painted at the campus racquetball courts on Feb. 21. More recently, a car belonging to a black Chico State student had two tires slashed and the words “coon” and “coon rider” spray-painted on it. The student discovered the vandalism when he and some friends returned to the car, parked at Nettleton Stadium March 1, after attending an on-campus basketball game.
While careful not to name Simmons and Braito as suspects in those other incidents, Hearne said the department was withholding details about the Whitney Hall case because “there are two more incidents we’re still investigating … and we want to have all of them resolved.” There is no evidence at this point that either suspect is linked to any racist organization. Police have no other suspects in any of the incidents.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said police were led to Simmons and Braito by a message scrawled on a “Things to do in Chico” poster at Whitney Hall, which was written in the same black, permanent ink as the other graffiti. The message urged “girls only” to come to Braito’s house for sex and gave the address and apartment number.
“This guy’s just a loser,” Ramsey added.
Braito is known here at the News & Review as the “dateless shmoe” (read the CN&R article from May 29, 2003,) who was arrested by the FBI last May for threatening to send anthrax to this office because he was angry about being charged to use our "Talking Personals" dating service. Braito, whose anthrax threat was ultimately deemed "not credible" by authorities, was nonetheless charged with a misdemeanor count of making terrorist threats and is scheduled to go on trial May 5. While searching his computer for clues, the FBI found evidence of child pornography, which led to a federal indictment. Those charges are still pending. Simmons has no previous criminal record in Butte County.