Bail set at $10,000 for Western Washington student accused of racist threats

By Jack Broom

A court commissioner set bail at $10,000 for the Western Washington University student accused of posting threats against students of color on a social media website.

Whatcom County Court Commissioner Martha Gross on Tuesday found probable cause to hold Tysen Campbell, 19, for investigation of first-degree malicious harassment, the state’s hate crime statute. Campbell, who has not been charged, will be arraigned Dec. 11.

Although formal charging is not expected before his arraignment, Gross said, she told Campbell that first-degree malicious harassment can carry a term of up to five years in prison. According to state law, malicious harassment is an attack motivated by a perception of someone’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability, and results in physical injury, property damage or threats that would place a reasonable person in fear of harm.

Gross barred Campbell from coming near Belina Seare, WWU student body president, the alleged target of a threat last week on the social media site Yik Yak.

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Campbell answered “yes” when Gross asked if he agreed to the stipulations on his release.

Campbell’s attorney, Robert Butler, would not comment to reporters on the allegations.

“We look forward to seeing the evidence. They haven’t written up anything yet,” he said, referring to the prosecutor’s allegations.

Speaking of Campbell’s lack of a criminal record, Butler said, “My client doesn’t have so much as a speeding ticket.”

At the request of Butler, Gross modified a provision that would have required Campbell to stay in Whatcom County and agreed that he could go to his family’s home in Granite Falls.

Campbell’s older brother, Morgan Campbell, was at the courthouse to post bail.

“ I don’t know what even happened,” he said. “It sounds like it was an honest mistake. He said something that shouldn’t have been said, and it spiraled out of control.”

Campbell was arrested Monday in connection with a post that read: “Let’s lynch her.” The threat referred to Seare, who is African-American. A pole-vaulter and member of the track team, Campbell has been suspended from WWU and barred from campus.

The threat Campbell allegedly posted was one of dozens of profanity-laced threats that anonymous commenters made about Seare, WWU cultural diversity student leader Abby Ramos and other students of color in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving break.

The threat followed a suggestion by student government leaders that the school rethink its mascot, a Viking, because it didn’t represent all students. The threat was anonymous, but Western campus police served a subpoena on Yik Yak, leading to Campbell’s name.

In an interview Monday, Campbell’s mother, Lisa Concidine, said her son told here he made a post that was “sarcastic because he was annoyed by all of the uproar.” Campbell told his mother he deleted it right away.

Citing campus safety concerns, Western President Bruce Shepard suspended classes Nov. 24. But the students who were threatened have sharply criticized him for not acting quickly and thoroughly enough.

The incident has caused much soul-searching on the Bellingham campus, a school about 90 miles north of Seattle better known for a laid-back atmosphere.

All the threats were posted anonymously.

The case is playing out amid a backdrop of protests by black students over incidents of racism at universities across the country. Western students say there’s a climate of racism on campus.

During a town hall-style meeting on campus Monday, Shepard and several professors and staff acknowledged the school is struggling with racism and hasn’t always done enough to try to stamp it out.