Classes were canceled at the University of La Verne on Friday after a vehicle fire in a dorm parking lot, one day after school administrators were made aware of reported race-based threats via social media.
The situation escalated on Friday, when a vehicle fire was reported in a dorm parking lot. Police said the unlocked car was seen with a backpack emitting smoke. The backpack was removed and extinguished.
The car suffered fire damage to the interior, while the exterior appeared to have some scratches in it, possibly having been keyed. It is unknown if those marks were there before the fire.
Los Angeles County Fire Department arson investigators are working the scene, along with La Verne police, to determine if the incident is related to Thursday's threat.
Among the threatening messages that police are investigating is a comment on a photo of students protesting racism that reads, "Every single one in this photo will get what is coming to them."
The anonymous commenter later wrote, "If you don't stop what you are doing at ULV you will suffer the consequences," and "If you don't stop with your little protests understand that something will happen to ALL of you."
There were other messages that contained profanity and racial slurs directed at black and Hispanic students.
The commenter also claimed to know where those students live and what cars they drive.
The owner of the car that was on fire also received threatening messages. Campus security declared the fire a case of arson and property theft.
Students said this is not the first time there have been racist incidents at the University of La Verne campus. They said they've held demonstrations to protest racism they've experienced at the university in the past year.
Now someone is targeting the students involved in the protests.
Investigators have not released information on a suspect. The messages appear to have been sent from a fraternity Instagram account, although who was actually writing them is unknown.
The university is cooperating with local police and federal law enforcement agencies.
KTLA spoke to one victim of these racist threats.
"We're definitely scared, yeah. In the messages they also said that if we have night class, don't be surprised if you don't make it to your class. So we are scared and we don't know who is doing it," the student said. She asked to conceal her identity out of concern for her safety.
The university released a statement Friday afternoon.
Dear campus community,
Yesterday, the University of La Verne received a report that a hate crime in the form of a racially-based threat had been committed via social media against students in our campus community.
The hateful actions are despicable and the incident is an affront to our values as a university. This is a critical moment for us to stand up for justice and declare that no one in our community will tolerate this type of behavior on our campuses.
To reaffirm the University of La Verne’s core value of diversity and inclusivity, and to demonstrate our commitment to providing a healthy and supportive environment, the university will suspend classes from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, to facilitate an afternoon of structured dialogue, workshops, and training around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusivity for the entire campus community.
The Provost and I are asking the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity to work with the Faculty Diversity Committee, the Faculty Diversity Fellows, the Center for Multicultural Services, and student leaders to ensure this program reflects input from all of our campus constituents.
We will also continue to provide support and assistance to all students affected by the threats.
The La Verne Police Department (LVPD) is leading a criminal investigation into the matter. The University of La Verne is fully cooperating with the LVPD and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and bring the perpetrator to justice.
Our programming for March 7 is neither the beginning nor the end of our important work in creating an inclusive environment. It acknowledges our past shortcomings, builds upon ongoing initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusivity, and moves us closer toward an inclusive environment wherein all have a sense of belonging.
Additional information will be provided next week.
The La Verne Police Department released a statement later Friday afternoon.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the La Verne Police Department at 909-956-1913.