The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a civil rights investigation after a student at Indiana University Bloomington allegedly shouted hateful slurs at a Muslim woman and tried to strangle her.
The incident occurred on Saturday night on a patio outside a Turkish restaurant and bakery a few blocks east of the Indiana U. campus, reports WTHR, the NBC station out of Indianapolis.
Triceten Bickford is the alleged attacker.
Bickford, 19, began the altercation by yelling “‘White power, White power,’ very loud,” the victim, a 47-year-old Turkish woman, told WTHR.
Then, the unidentified victim explained, Bickford grabbed her neck.
“I found him at my neck, like pushing me down, squeezing my neck, and putting my head to the table,” the woman, who has been a U.S. resident for 18 years, told the station.
“He pulled my scarf off, and, if I didn’t grab his hands, he could have killed me,” she added.
The woman’s 9-year-old was with her at the time of the incident, but was not harmed.
A WTHR reporter tracked down Bickford on campus on Monday.
He said he has no recollection of the incident. He said he had failed to take his anti-anxiety medication. Also, he had been drinking very heavily.
“I’m so sorry. That woman — I have no idea who she is but I can’t — words can’t explain how much that, like, just like, I’ve never hurt someone like that before,” Bickford told WTHR, fighting back tears.
“And I did it in front of their daughter? That’s so unreasonable. That’s, just, that’s so insane,” he added.
“That’s not who I am. I’m not a hateful person,” the psychology major also said. “I love people. I don’t know where that came from.”
Bloomington police arrested Bickford on Saturday. A blood-alcohol test showed that his blood-alcohol level was 0.19. (The legal limit for driving in Indiana is 0.08.)
On Sunday, he was released on a $500 bond.
The victim said her neck hurt after the attack but she did not require medical help.
Bickford faces half a dozen criminal charges including strangulation. There’s also battery on a police officer because, police say, he tried to bite the cop who arrested him. And he attempted to break a squad car window with his foot.
“This is a situation that appears to come out of nowhere and is atypical for our community and something that is completely unacceptable,” Bloomington police spokesman Joe Qualters told Indianapolis Fox affiliate WXIN.
Indiana is among a handful of states which do not have hate crime statutes on the books. If the FBI recommends charges, a federal statute would be invoked.
In addition to the FBI and local police, the Indiana University administration will conduct its own investigation of the attack.
“This type of abhorrent behavior is not representative of our students, nor of the culture of inclusion and tolerance so many people at the university and in the Bloomington community have worked so hard to foster,” school officials said in a statement obtained by WXIN.