Victim of alleged hate crime speaks out

Family photos show the injuries Marcus Owens suffered when he says he was attacked in Iowa...
Family photos show the injuries Marcus Owens suffered when he says he was attacked in Iowa City on April 30th.(KCRG)
Published: May. 4, 2016 at 6:31 PM CDT
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The Iowa City Police Department said it is investigating an attack on a black University of Iowa student as a hate crime.

Police said Marcus Owens, a 19-year-old freshman at the UI, reported the incident. Owens told police it happened between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, April 30th, near an alley in the 200 block of Iowa Avenue.

Owens said he was on the phone when a college-aged white man started calling him the N-word. The man approached Owens and swung a fist. Owens said a fight broke out. He said two other white men, also college-aged, joined the brawl. They're alleged to have hit and kicked Owens while continuing to shout racial slurs.

A passerby saw the fight, yelled and scared the three men off.

"It feels like a nightmare," said Owens. "It feels like a dream. I can't believe it happened. I'm still in awe."

Owens walked to a nearby hospital. He was later treated for non-life threatening injuries at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and released.

"I have stitches in my lip," said Owens. "I have an eye socket that is busted. My two teeth are knocked out."

Owens told Iowa City Police about the fight, Monday. As of Wednesday afternoon, police hadn't filed charges, but were making headway.

"Based on the information we obtained from the victim," said Sgt. Scott Gaarde, "then following up on subsequent leads, we were able to identify possible suspects in this matter."

Online, some have slammed the University of Iowa for not reacting to the attack quicker. In response, school officials said they had only learned about Owens via local media, Tuesday.

Dozens of students, including student group and student government leaders, met at the Iowa Memorial Union in a closed meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the incident.

Oliver Hidalgo, a senior and former chair of the campus diversity committee, told TV9 students are upset that they had to learn about the attack on Owens through social media and not through the University of Iowa.

"Because he was assaulted literally just a block away, no students were told about this until a news outlet in Chicago reported on it," Hidalgo told us. "I think in this case, a lot of students are wondering why we didn't receive any information on this."

Hidalgo estimated that the students who participated in Wednesday night's meeting would eventually be coming forward with a list of recommendations to university administrators on how to better communicate incidents like this to the student body.

The University issued a crime alert, Wednesday, after confirming details of the attack with Iowa City Police. In a statement, issued later that afternoon, UI officials said they want to "create a climate of inclusion" at the university, and that the alleged hate crime demonstrates they "have a great deal of work left to do".

"We want our students to feel safe," said Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin. "What we hope to do here is to resolve the criminal part of this rapidly and provide some assurance of safety."

School officials said Owens and his family met with Rocklin and UI President Bruce Harreld, Wednesday, to discuss the fight.

Owens said he plans to stay at Iowa and pursue a business degree. Right now, though, his focus is recovery.

"I'm at the hospital now, getting checked out," said Owens. "Want to get everything done. Trying to get my teeth fixed so I can eat things. Just carry on with this and keep a positive attitude."