A Columbia University football player is charged with a hate crime after allegedly threatening another student and calling him Asian slurs.
The 19-year-old victim, who is Asian, told police he was leaving a dorm with two female friends on West 113th Street early Sunday when the suspect and his friends began heckling the women, according to law enforcement sources.
When the victim tried to defend his friends, the suspect, identified as Chad Washington, allegedly called him slurs and started following him.
Washington then pushed him against a wall and grabbed him by his collar, the victim told police.
Washington may have been with at least four other people. Police are investigating whether they participated in the harassment.
A school security patrol officer witnessed the incident and told police he thought it was a group horsing around.
Washington was taken into custody Tuesday when the victim saw him near the school's campus and pointed him out to detectives.
Washington faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated harassment as a hate crime. He did not enter a plea at his arraignment Wednesday, and was released without bail. He's due back in court July 8.
In a statement Wednesday, defense attorney Daniel Fetterman said his client was a "highly regarded student and athlete."
"The allegations do not accurately portray the events that occurred," Fetterman said. "When all the facts come out, it will be clear that Mr. Washington did not commit a hate crime, and he will be vindicated."
Columbia University said in a statement it could not comment on the police investigation.
The statement continued, "We can only say that Columbia is widely recognized for the core values long defining us as an urban university community: the multi-cultural diversity of our students, faculty and staff; our openness to people and ideas; and tolerance for our differences. And we will continue to be guided by these essential values."
Students on campus agreed.
"That is not something you'd expect at Columbia," said David Harris.
Steven Bennett, who is acquainted with Washington, said he was shocked.
"He seems fairly nice," said Bennett. "I wouldn't expect something like this to happen."
According to the Columbia athletics website, Washington is a 6-foot-4 defensive lineman from Oakland, Calif.
His alleged victim is 5 feet 7 inches tall.