Des Moines police investigators are unable to confirm that weekend violence outside the Iowa State Fairgrounds was racially motivated, officials said Wednesday–shifting away from written reports and public statements made by officers after the melee.
“We don’t want to jump to conclusions,” Lt. Joe Gonzalez said. “It is not the standpoint of the police department right now to say that it’s racially motivated. We are following up and continually talking to the victims.”
The statements were a change from earlier in the week, when a police official said it was “very possible” race was a factor in the incidents.
A report filed by Sgt. Dave Murillo said there were 30 to 40 people roaming the fairgrounds openly referring to “beat whitey night.”
On Wednesday, Capt. Randy Dawson said he could not find the origin of information that appeared in Murillo’s report.
Interviews with victims of attacks outside the fairgrounds have not produced evidence that any of the incidents were racially motivated, he said.
Gonzalez and Dawson said the “beat whitey night” information stemmed from “general intelligence information” that was unsubstantiated and had been misinterpreted.
Murillo made the report while he was working off-duty at Mercy Medical Center, Dawson said. It was unclear who told Murillo that people roaming the fairgrounds were making those kinds of statements.
“I’ve been looking into that, and I cannot find the origin of that comment,” Dawson said.
Police do not believe the attacks were orchestrated, Dawson said.
“I would say it was random. . . . There’s no indication there was a plan to make this kind of disruption,” he said.
Abdul-Samad [Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines], who has worked to fight gang-related violence, told The Des Moines Register this week that factors other than race, such as nonracial taunting, might have been involved in the clashes that occurred near the fairgrounds.