Last week, a vehicle parked in a lot not far from the Kansas State University campus was found with virulently racist statements all over it. Kansas State issued a statement in which they asked for the facts to be gathered before the university responded publicly, writing:

We thank the Riley County Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation for their prompt investigation of an alleged hate crime. The possibility of hate crimes in our communities affects the very fabric of our daily lives. We want to acknowledge the anger and pain felt by many in our community when racist pictures and words were posted on social media. We encourage anyone who feels affected to take advantage of the many university resources available through student life, human capital services and counseling services. Our first response always will be to look out for the members of our K-State family.

This situation reminds us again that the responsible path is to gather the facts before we respond publicly. This becomes even more important in an age where inaccurate social media claims are routinely accepted as truthful. We appreciate that the results of this investigation have exposed the facts and allow us to move forward.

Meanwhile, some in the media assumed the incident was a racist attack that was part of a trend at the university; the Associated Press wrote, “Kansas State University is stepping up police patrols and taking other safety measures following a spate of racial incidents that culminated this week when a black man's car parked near campus was scrawled with racist graffiti.”

A man claiming to be the car’s owner called The Kansas City Star, informing the paper that the vandalism and the resulting social media explosion has made it “impossible for me to go anywhere. I can’t drive my car anywhere without people stopping me.” The Star said the man claimed he did not want the attention and had withdrawn from the university, intending to return to his home in California.

But the university denied the vehicle’s owner was ever a student, at least not anyone with the name under which the vehicle was registered.

Then, on Monday, a young black man, Dauntarius Williams, 21, came forward to admit the car was his and he had staged the occurrence as “a Halloween prank that got out of hand.”

The Riley County Police Department posted a statement on Facebook in which they explained what happened and included Williams’ apology: