The police who investigated a report of a noose hanging from a tree on K-State’s campus in May said it may not have been intended to be a noose at all — much less a racist message.
K-State Police Department Lt. Bradli Millington and Detective Sgt. Andrew Moeller told The Mercury on Friday that they responded to a report of a noose hanging from a tree west of King Hall on May 5.
The rope in question was a camouflage-colored nylon parachute cord about 1/8 inch in diameter. Multiple pieces of the rope were hanging from or draped over the tree. One piece was tied like a noose and hanging from a branch, but the officers said that it wasn’t clear whether the person who tied it intended for it to look that way.
Furthermore, the branch from which the ropes were hanging was not over a walkway or a road, so most people passing by wouldn’t have noticed it. In fact, they said they believe it may have been there for up to two days when someone reported it.
“Nobody took credit for it,” Moeller said. “There were no messages that went along with it. We don’t know how long it was actually there, because it blends in with the trees and the leaves. So if somebody was trying to send a message, they were not a very effective communicator.”
The tree is a London Planetree, which, as part of K-State’s Tree Walk, is the only one of its kind and has a nameplate to identify it. It sits in a grassy space near Mid Campus Drive, near the modern-style statue of a fork.
Police removed the rope immediately, and university officials — including President Richard Myers — responded to the incident, calling the rope a noose. He said students should be aware of nooses as a symbol of black slavery in the United States and the implications of that.
The police conducted a “cursory investigation” of the incident, but with no suspects and no victim, they couldn’t determine that a crime had even been committed.
“We never called it a criminal case, never called it a noose,” Millington said. He added that if someone meant for it to be a racist act, it’s more likely that they would use a thicker, light-colored rope.
The cord is the type originally used for parachute lines, and now sold for various utilitarian applications, like tying something to a vehicle rack.
The officers said there was a report that students leaving from a class in nearby Bluemont Hall had some similar rope or cord visible on their backpacks, but police couldn’t confirm any connection.
The information about the noose comes to light after the investigations of two other recent incidents showed that they were not racially motivated as originally thought.
Riley County police last week reported that racist graffiti scrawled on a car at an apartment building near campus actually had been done by the car’s owner, 21-year-old Dauntarius Williams of Manhattan. The man released a public apology for his actions on Monday.
In another incident about a month earlier, people reported that someone had destroyed a temporary structure called a sukkah near campus erected for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
The K-State police also investigated that and determined that the wind — not a person — had damaged the sukkah. In that case, the person who had organized the building of the sukkah assumed it had been taken down by vandals because he found it near his car. He reported the problem to university officials before the police could investigate.
But the officers said when they did, they found that multiple witnesses had seen the sukkah blowing across the grass and into the parking lot during a nine-minute period. The location where it ended up was consistent with the direction and speed of the wind that day, which included 30-mph gusts. And the damage was consistent with tumbling, not with people picking up and moving the structure.
While acknowledging that it was a coincidence that the sukkah landed on the car of the man who had erected it, they said it had damaged an adjacent car, too.
The police said they hope the public will try not to rush to a conclusion in the future.
“I just feel like it’s hard for people to stay objective and wait until we have all the facts to make a judgement,” Moeller said.