Bryan Davis: Bleach Balloon Investigations Have Been Mishandled and Misrepresented

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On Wednesday, the University of Texas said that the balloon launched at junior Bryan Davis last Thursday does not appear to have been filled with bleach based on non-forensic testing of Davis' clothing and balloon shards in the general area of the attack. But this account – and the investigation as a whole so far – Davis explains, is far too hasty. Davis has written an op-ed on Burnt Orange Report explaining what's really been happening in the APD investigation and the extent of miscommunication about what we've actually learned since last Thursday.


Bryan Davis speaking at the campus rally Wednesday for a more inclusive UT community

There Should Be No Bleach Found On My Clothes

Bryan Davis

Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that both a report run in the Daily Texan and a statement issued by UT Austin suggested that the evidence given to the APD contained no indication of bleach used in my assault last Thursday. Unfortunately, both the report and the statement given by UT are a result of poor investigation and utter negligence in handling the details of my case. From the very beginning, I have consistently stated in all three reports I have given to the UTPD and APD that the bleach balloon did not directly strike me but had landed approximately 4-5 feet away from me. Many media organizations have misreported the assault as a balloon that struck me directly, therefore leaving bleach on both me and my clothes. This account of the assault is inaccurate. The only liquid that made contact with me, made contact on the skin of my right leg, nowhere else. Despite this and despite having told The Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly along with her Senior Associate Douglas Garrard that my clothes had not been affected by what I believe was bleach, my clothing was still taken in as “evidence”. Why? I have no idea. In other words, the UTPD and APD are analyzing “evidence” that tells no more about the assault that happened than does anything else from or on my body except the calf-area of my right leg.

Read the rest below the jump.

Concerning the balloon shards that were collected as evidence from the area of the crime: When I went to the UTPD this Tuesday, I was once again asked what I believed had happened during the assault and once again I gave the detectives the same account of the incident that I had given them and the APD already. This time however, they notified me that they had collected evidence of their own at the scene of the incident that consisted of various balloons from the “nearby areas”. Because I myself had attempted to find the balloon shards of my assault only a day after it had happened and before any detective or representative had collected evidence from the scene at all, I asked the detectives at UTPD how they knew which of the various balloons they collected was the balloon used in the assault against me. Their response? They weren't sure.

The lack of thorough due diligence does not end there however. At our meeting on Tuesday, the UTPD informed me that since they had collected what they believed was relevant evidence, they were working on getting that evidence to a lab in Arlington, Texas. Other than the possibility that they've collected what I believe is irrelevant evidence, I have no issue with the fact that they're at least trying to do something by getting what they do have to a lab. However, contrary to reports that the school had been working closely with both the APD and UTPD on the case, detectives at the UTPD informed me that they had not been able to get in touch with the APD detective that had been assigned to my case, a Detective Bigini, since as early as last Friday. When I asked them why this was, they had no idea and suggested that it was possible the detective was on vacation. According to the UTPD, the APD hadn't even asked for the evidence to take and analyze for themselves yet, hence the UTPD taking things into their own hands and finding a forensics lab unilaterally.

And no, it doesn't stop there. The next morning was when I saw the article in the Daily Texan that quoted APD information officer David Boyd as saying that the APD wouldn't move forward with the case until they received a statement from me on what had happened in my assault. Despite having already detailed the events of my assault the day of the incident, two colleagues and myself went down to the APD headquarters Wednesday in order to file yet another report and almost immediately we were told that that would not be able to happen!!! According to the APD, Detective Bigini was in the middle of training and “might” be available to resume investigation into my case the next day. We were then forwarded to a Detective Kelly who informed us that he would not be able to take a statement due to Detective Bignin's prerogative over the case and the fact that he had another upcoming appointment for the day and would be leaving to go home afterwards. We then asked if we could make a statement to Det. Bigini's chief officer Det. Keith Reynolds but Reynolds was also unavailable. Det. Kelly then offered to email Det. Bigini our request to give a statement. After demanding to give a statement to every officer that passed us out of the lobby however, a worker by the name of Margot was able to get ahold of someone and I was eventually told that I could give a statement to a Det. Edwards. It should also be noted that neither Det. Kelly nor Det. Edwards could explain the public statement that had been made by Cpl. David Boyd that failed to mention the fact that Det. Bigini was in training and was since unable to handle the investigation at all due to that training.

After having talked to Det. Bigini today (Thursday), Det. Bigini also does not know why officer David Boyd made the public statement he did, saying that the reason the case was being held up had nothing to do with waiting for a statement from me. Det. Bigini admittedly didn't know much about the case until today, but said that the case had indeed been held up due to Det. Bigni's day off on Monday, two days in training, and a misunderstanding of the nature of the details I had given him last Friday.

Ultimately, the blame must be shared between The Daily Texan, UT's Dr. Greg Vincent, and the APD for failing to be accurate in their interpretation of details and evidence from the case. I would rather the case go cold from a dead end than public officials making quick and uninformed statements to hurriedly scoot the issue under the rug.

However, as I said at the rally on Wednesday, the liquid from the balloon in my assault is irrelevant to why these protests are happening. The underlying issue is the cultural ignorance and insensitivity that encouraged these assaults in the first place. When minorities in an area have historically been discriminated against and targeted because of the color of their skin then perpetrators of an attack had better consider how their prank or game might be perceived by the minority they intend on targeting. For so many of us, it's not a game, it's our own concerns and past experiences that we carry with us and they don't go away, even when we're the target of your next “prank”.

Bryan Davis

UT Austin Junior

Target of last Thursday's Assault

Davis' concerns about the collected evidence's ability to determine the nature of the assault must be addressed. Clear mishandling of the case between UT and the APD means that results of the investigation cannot yet be fully accepted. Inaccurate reports in prominent UT publications like The Daily Texan only hurt the situation while purporting to be giving it due coverage.

On Wednesday, the first day of classes, about 100 UT students and professors rallied by the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the South Mall against a sense of being unwelcome. Students spoke about feeling unsafe in West Campus, from large racially-offensive parties to epithets hurled at them as they walked. Many speakers suggested a mandatory cultural awareness course taught to all freshmen. Currently, UT requires students to take courses with cultural diversity flags, but these do not have a broad-based focus on the campus environment.

“The rally brought everyone together and spread the word about what's been happening. I really think we should make our ideas into a plan to move forward; we talk about it, but are we really going to do something? I hope this sparks something inside of everybody else to move forward, to do something, to spread the word, to make this a more inclusive campus for everybody,” Ja'Michael Darnell, a fourth-year theater and dance major who said he had not personally been discriminated against but that he knows people who have, told Burnt Orange Report. “This shouldn't have to keep happening. This is the first day of school and we have to think about something like this.”

“You have to do something more than just get together. I'm glad the rally focused on people taking action,” fourth-year student George Nassan said.

Government junior Mirusha Yogarajah told the rally that she has twice had balloons she believes to have been filled with bleach thrown at her in West Campus, and that it feels like an unsafe environment for her and many of her friends.

Here are some additional photos of the rally:

About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental political challenge of our time because it affects every other issue in American politics. He is currently on leave for the election season.

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