ITHACA, N.Y. — According to court documents, witnesses say that at least three Cornell students were attacked by white men and called racial slurs early Friday morning.
John Greenwood, a 19-year-old Cornell University student, has been charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault and second-degree aggravated harassment. University officials have declined to comment about whether he is still permitted on campus or if the school is pursuing disciplinary action against him.
Ithaca police have said that they responded to 306 Eddy Street around 1:30 a.m. Friday for a report of a fight that appeared to be racially motivated.
A black Cornell student, the complainant in this case, was returning home when he found a fight taking place and attempted to break it up. As four or five men white men left the property, they repeatedly shouted racial slurs and expletives at him, records state. When the student confronted them, he said he was attacked.
Four people who appear who appear to be Cornell University students, according to an online directory, gave statements to police corroborating the account that a group of white men unjustifiably physically and verbally attacked them. The Ithaca Voice will not be reporting their names to protect their identity.
The accounts below are based on accusatory documents filed at Ithaca City Court:
The first student said he was visiting friends at a home on the 800 block of Seneca Street when he saw his friend, the complainant, arguing with some neighbors. He said he doesn’t know why the men were arguing, but “it was clear this was not a friendly situation.” He said he went over to break up the fight.
He said he convinced his friend to go from the driveway to the home to the porch and one of the white men started following them.
“I told this subject to leave the property but he was still exchanging words with (redacted) who was on the front porch. I kept repeating to him that he needed to leave and he finally looked at me and shoved me and I fell onto the stairs to the porch.”
He got up but was then pushed to the ground again. More shoving ensued and the student’s glasses were knocked off. The student’s statement also implied that the white person’s friends also came onto the property.
“I cannot see without them so I grabbed the guy and tried to wrap him up so I did not get punched. A friend that I am (was) visiting with grabbed me and pulled me back to the porch. That is when the guys finally left the property and started started to walk up Eddy Street to their place next door,” he said.
The white men yelled racial slurs as they walked away and the complainant followed them onto their property. The student said he lost sight of the complainant and began hearing loud popping noises. He said he walked to see if the complainant was OK and found him staggering back toward the home.
“I noticed he was bleeding from his nose and his shirt was covered in blood,” the student said. “After we got him cleaned up, he laid down and was rolling around complaining of pain in his head and face. I was concerned that he may have a concussion.”
The second student, the complainant, saw some neighbors arguing with his roommates as he walked home early Friday morning. The argument was happening at 306 Eddy Street where his friends were gathered on a porch. He said that as he kept walking to his house, the argument escalated to people pushing and shoving each other.
“I tried to break it up. The neighbors began to walk away but as they did, they began shouting, “N—–! N—–! F— you N—–!” So I walked to their house and asked them, “What did you say?”… I walked down the pathway that led to their house and several of them advanced on me and started hitting me mostly in the face.”
The student said four or five people were responsible for attacking him. He got a bloody nose in the fight and was later taken to the hospital for his injuries.
He told police that he only recognized one person who attacked him — a person who wore a white shirt during the incident and a red hoodie afterward — and identified that person to police.
The complainant told police he does not know why he was attacked but thinks it was because of his skin tone due to the racial slurs yelled at him.
The third student was walking home and saw two white men walk from the porch of a home to a fence separating 306 Eddy St. from the sidewalk. An argument ensued for an unknown reason and both white men were reported yelling “N—–” and “Sand N—–” to the student and his friends.
As the student walked up some stairs to get onto the sidewalk and proceed to the house, he said one of the white men wearing a blue shirt slapped him, knocked food out of his hand, and continued calling him racial slurs. He and his friends told the white men to leave and the argument continued.
“When they did finally leave, I and my friends followed them back and confronted them about their behavior. I cannot speak for the others, but I was angry and was not going to stand for this type of behavior. I did not say anything to these people when I originally walked past their house so I do not know why they came over to our house,” the student said.
He said he thinks he was hit because of a fight that had just occurred between the white men and the complainant.
Before anything else physical could happen, the police arrived at the scene. He said he has three videos of the incident.
The fourth student verified the accounts of the first and third student. He also said he saw the complainant with a bloodied nose and identified some of the white men who shouted racial slurs.
Since the event was reported, there has been outrage in the Cornell and Ithaca community for what many perceive as a hate crime.
According to New York State law, the following must be in place for a hate crime to be prosecuted:
A person commits a hate crime when he or she commits a specified offense and either:
(a) intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct, or
(b) intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.
The Ithaca Police Department said it is still actively investigating the incident, “including the elements that this assault was based on racial bias.”
Greenwood is being represented by prominent local attorney Ray Schlather. In a statement, Schlather said:
“To be clear, the use of the N-word, and any related racist or derogatory language, is completely unacceptable not only at Cornell but anywhere in America. My client understands this well; such language not only offends his values but does not reflect the person he is.
The facts of this matter, however, establish that John was in no way involved in any physical altercation of any kind. Nor did he commit any crime.
I am confident that this will be plainly evident as the more accurate facts become public.”
Greenwood is scheduled to appear for arraignment at 9 a.m. Sept. 27 in Ithaca City Court.