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Two Grand Forks incidents recorded in FBI hate crimes report

GRAND FORKS — Two Grand Forks incidents were counted among the FBI's 2016 Hate Crime Statistics Report released last month, though neither prompted criminal charges.

One incident, the widely reported and criticized Snapchat photo of University of North Dakota students gloating after locking a black student out of a residence hall drew national attention to Grand Forks. The other—the assault and harassment of a Muslim-American airman at downtown bars—was largely unknown.

In the 2016 FBI report, North Dakota recorded eight incidents, seven for racial bias and one for religious discrimination, and ranked 38th among the states and the District of Columbia for hate crimes, with 1.05 crimes per 100,000 population. North Dakota ranked second in the country for hate crimes by population in 2014 and 2015.

Based on hate crimes per capita, Minnesota ranked 15th among the states and the District of Columbia with 5.18 bias crimes per 100,000 residents, with 122 recorded incidents: 77 motivated by race, 30 by religion and 15 by sexual orientation.

Nationwide, the latest FBI report stated that out of 15,254 participating law enforcement agencies 1,776, or 11.6 percent, reported a total of 6,121 hate crime incidents.

Grand Forks incidents

In September 2016, UND received national media attention and scorn after four people in blackface appeared in a Snapchat photo with a caption that read "Black Lives Matter" and a black student had her phone stolen by three white students who posted an image of themselves smiling on social media that read "Locked the black b**** out."

UND Police Sgt. Danny Weigel said while the photo incident did not warrant criminal charges, the investigation was recorded in the university's Cleary Act report, which means it was available to federal agencies.

The other, less-known incident, came on July 8, 2016, when Grand Forks police took a report from a Muslim airman stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base who said he was harassed and assaulted at multiple bars in downtown Grand Forks by a man who continually called him a "terrorist."

Police met the victim at the Altru Emergency Room, according to an incident report. The 24-year-old airman told officers he was approached by a man at The Loft who called him "Osama Bin Laden" and "Saddam Hussein." He said the man followed him to other bars, and at Level 10 the man punched him and told him "get out of my country," before bouncers kicked man out. Outside the bar, the victim said he went after the man but was punched from behind and jumped on by several of his assaulter's friends. He said the men knocked his phone to the ground, causing it to crack in several places.

Police followed up with witnesses, according the report, but ultimately the victim told police he did not want to pursue a criminal case.

Lt. Derik Zimmel said that while charges were not filed, the code for racial or bias motivation was entered by officers who completed the incident report, which would have registered with Uniformed Crime Reporting System analyzed by the FBI.

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