INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An FBI spokeswoman said Friday that she expects an “expeditious, impartial and thorough” investigation into a suspected hate crime involving an former Indiana University student accused of attacking a Muslim woman.
The woman, who I-Team 8 has chosen not to identify, told a reporter Friday that the days following the attack have been difficult.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said.
Court records indicate that the woman was sitting outside the Sofra Cafe in Bloomington Saturday evening when Bickford allegedly approached her from an alley shouting “white power” and other racial slurs.
The woman told authorities, “out of nowhere” he grabbed the back of her neck with his right hand and squeezed, according to a probable cause affidavit. The woman told police Bickford was using his other hand to unravel the scarf around her head, which caused her some breathing difficulties.
The woman’s nine-year old daughter was also nearby but was unharmed. The woman’s husband and another man came to her aid and restrained Bickford until authorities arrived. The court records show Bickford also allegedly spit on the men and told them he was going to kill them.
Triceten Bickford, 19, was expelled from the university following the incident on Oct. 17, according to IU spokesman Mark Land. Bickford was expected in court Friday but waived his initial appearance, according to online court records. His attorney, Katharine Liell, denies that the incident was a hate crime.
“It’s no secret that he is horrified. After he read the charges, it made him his physically ill,” Liell said. “He was highly intoxicated and has little memory of the event. He is not a hater. He has been the person who respects and cherishes diversity.”
Liell added that it’s what initially drew the 19-year old to Bloomington and IU’s campus.
Bickford faces four counts battery in addition to strangulation and intimidation charges. He was also charged with illegal consumption and public intoxication because court records indicate he was underage and “heavily intoxicated.”
Sofra Cafe server Tiffany Trujillo says the days after the alleged attack have been hectic, filled with police interviews and nearly a half dozen bouquets of flowers and cards from people sending well-wishes to the woman who was attacked and her family.
“Everyone has been bringing flowers and everyone has been bringing gifts for their daughter because she witnessed the terrible thing,” Trujillo said. “I’ve always felt Bloomington was tolerant of all cultures. I don’t want to let this one incident reflect the entire community because Bloomington is a great place.”
IU graduate students Denisa Jashari and Amanda Landillo began planning a rally against hate speech and anti-Islamic sentiments shortly after Saturday’s incident. The two have planned the “Bloomington Against Islamophobia” rally, which has since become a larger venture including other student-run groups incorporating both the Muslim Student Association and others, the women said. The rally is schedule to begin at noon Saturday near IU’s Sample Gates.
“We believe the incident is part of a national wave of anti-Muslim sentiments that began after 9/11,” said Jashari. “We wanted to have a collective action that shows the Muslim community in town that they have our support and solidarity,” she said.
Amanda Landillo said that she expects between 100 to 500 participants to take part in Saturday’s event.
“We want to show that the woman who was attacked – who is a Hoosier, who is a Bloomingtonian – that we are with her and we stand behind her,” Landillo said.