Hate crime charge added to Western Washington student suspected of vandalism

The Western Washington University student arrested in connection with on-campus racist and homophobic vandalism has been charged with a hate crime.

The Bellingham Herald reports that court records show 20-year-old Shayne Robert Merwin of Gold Bar is now facing one count of malicious harassment, Washington state's felony hate crime statute, in addition to the second-degree burglary charge, also a felony.

Merwin's arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday.

On Nov. 18, students at WWU reported racist graffiti at Nash Residence Hall. Authorities say a University police officer spoke with a man who said he overheard Merwin talking about finding an electronic key and using a marker to deface property with racial slurs and threats of sexual violence. Attempts to locate an attorney for Merwin weren't immediately successful.

The following day, a racial epithet was found on the Wright's Triangle sculpture near the Ross Engineering Building and a poster in front of Arntzen Hall was defaced with racist language. An additional racist word was found on a pillar at Fairhaven College.

All of the vandalism targeted the African-American, Latino, Japanese and LGBTQ+ communities, and has since been removed.

On Monday afternoon, around 200 students held a six-hour sit-in at WWU President Sabah Randhawa's office to protest how the university handled Merwin's arrest.

After his arrest, Merwin was no longer allowed at any university housing or dining halls, but was still allowed to attend classes. Cocke said Tuesday that Merwin has decided not to be on campus for the remainder of fall quarter. Whether Merwin returns will be determined through the student conduct process, Cocke said.