Police investigating bleach balloon attacks on Texas college students


by MELISSA MAHADEO / KVUE News and photojournalist KENNETH NULL


Posted on October 3, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 3 at 2:39 PM

AUSTIN --  University of Texas students say they're the target of racially-motivated hate crimes.

Nia Wesley is a freshman, but she has been a Longhorn since birth. Both her parents went to UT. So when her friends told her they'd been hit with balloons possibly filled with bleach, and that they had been thrown at them from balconies, she was appalled.

"It just, it really gets to me that this is happening," she said. "It seems like they are trying to white wash because the only students that have reported it have been black or Mexican."

So far four incidents have been reported to police. One was on 26th Street and Nueces, one on Guadeloupe and two on Pearl.

UT and Austin police received the reports late Monday night, but some incidents date as far back as June, and students on campus said several others have gone unreported.

The Austin Police Department is investigating whether balloons were pegged at students, whether they were filled with bleach, and whether it was a targeted hate crime.

"We need the help investigating these four instances, and we need them to stop," Anthony Hipolita with APD said.

Wesley said her friends did not initially come forward because they were afraid to speak out, but now that they have, they are going to be honest.

"I am describing this to my dad, and he is saying that sounds exactly like what happened to me in 1986," she said.

She said some students have even had themed parties that negatively target the Hispanic culture.

In a rally through West Campus Tuesday night, she hopes she and her friends will get their message out this time, loud and clear.

"We want to be here and change the world just like everyone else," she said.

Police say throwing objects such as a water balloon from a balcony is an offense. If it hits you or is targeted to hit you, it is considered assault.