This story was updated on May 1 to include information from Lehigh University Police Department.
The four men involved in a hate crime on Lehigh University’s campus reported on April 20 have been charged, according to a Northampton County District Attorney’s Office press release.
Brandon John, 22, of East Norriton, Pennsylvania, and Cameron Graf, 22, of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, were charged with simple assault and harassment; Michael Rosta, 21, of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, was charged with burglary and simple assault; and Nabil Jameel, 22, of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, was charged with simple assault. None of the individuals are affiliated with the university.
According to the release, each defendant admitted their involvement in the incident to police.
While passing by in their car, the four individuals directed racist comments at a Black Lehigh student who was walking with some friends in the area of Packer Avenue and Webster Street, a location the Lehigh University Police Department initially determined through a security camera. The four individuals proceeded to assault the Black student multiple times, including once in a campus residence hall.
Lehigh police received a report of a possible fight in a residential building on Asa Packer Campus at around 2 a.m. on April 15. Officers spoke with witnesses on scene who said there was an assault involving the assailants and the Lehigh student, who will remain anonymous to protect his privacy.
The student spoke with police and said he ran after the car after being called a slur and put his hands on the trunk of the vehicle. He also reached into the back driver’s side window, briefly touching one of the individuals before disengaging and returning to his friends.
He said the four individuals then parked their car and chased after him and his two friends. One of the individuals struck the student before he was able to run back to his on-campus residence.
He told police he used the bathroom in the residence hall, and upon exiting, the four individuals were waiting for him outside and began to attack him again.
The student defended himself without injury and was able to get away by hiding in a friend’s room. The individuals banged on the door and yelled for the student to come out, but they eventually left the building.
Officers spoke with a witness who said she granted the individuals access into the building because she thought they were friends of a resident. She overheard a commotion in the hallway and saw one of the men was banging on the door of the room the student hid in. She told the officers she saw the man pull a small black firearm from the front of his waistband and either click the safety off or rack the slide.
Jason Schiffer, assistant vice president of Campus Safety and chief of Lehigh University police, said the department was not able to release information to the public earlier than April 20 because the investigation was active from April 15 (when the incident occurred) until then. He said releasing information prematurely could jeopardize the case’s conclusion and could violate federal privacy laws.
He said Lehigh police have an obligation to communicate information regarding active threats to the community. However, Lehigh police were not called and made aware of the incident until the threat was no longer active, so they did not release a timely warning.
They were able to release information on April 20 because criminal charges had been filed and there was an affidavit of probable cause, which is in a document made public by the district attorney’s office.
“There was an incredible amount of work done to identify these individuals and bring it to a point where charges could be brought,” Schiffer said.
He said Lehigh police take these matters seriously and put every resource at their disposal into investigating the case.
He said Lehigh’s campus being an open community comes with risks, but he and the department are constantly researching, assessing and speaking with university leaders and community members about the safety of campus and community members, including the accessibility of campus buildings.
“My heart truly goes out to all members of our community, not just our students of color or traditionally underrepresented communities,” Schiffer said. “This type of an incident affects all of us in certain ways, some more so than others, but I don’t think anybody who hears about an instance like this reads about it without having some type of an effect. What I can say is I hope that it’s been clearly demonstrated that when criminal instances occur on our campus, we are going to do everything that we can in our power to hold those responsible.”