Three female University of Albany students have been accused of assault after originally claiming they had been the victims of a racist attack from “10-12 white men” on a city bus. That alleged attack happened on January 30. On February 25, police in Albany announced that charges had been filed against Ariel Agudio, Alexis Briggs and Asha Burwell, all 20. Cops in the city say that it was the trio who initiated the alleged attack. Above is a video from a rally to support the trio at the University of Albany after the group had gained national attention.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Alleged Victim Is a 19-Year-Old Woman
WNYT reports that police in Albany had been skeptical about the student’s claims after viewing the security video from the bus. In addition, investigators interviewed around 35 potential witnesses as well as looking at four cellphone videos that were taken at the time. It was then determined by police that the trio had initiated the brawl with a 19-year-old passenger. The incident occurred on the morning of January 30 at around 1 a.m. The Daily Gazette in Albany reports that the victim is a 19-year-old woman from Congers, New York.
The Albany Times Union reports that Burwell, Agudio and Briggs had to be treated for minor injuries after the incident at Albany Medical Center.
You can watch the full video here.
2. A Civil Rights Activist Said the Bus’s Security Video Was ‘Very Confusing’
The trio are charged with misdemeanor assault, Agudio and Burwell are further accused of making a false police report. They will all appear in Albany City Police Court on February 29. The assault charge carries a maximum penalty of 1-year in prison. Prior to announcing the charges, WNYT reports that the video from the bus was shown to community leaders in Albany. The Albany Times-Union reported on February 3 that a video from the night in quesiton had leaked on to Instagram but was deleted. That clip purported to contradict the story of the three students, allegedly showing a one-on-one confrontation. Civil Rights activist Alice Green told the media that she was shown the security video from the bus on February 4. In response, Green said, “People have claimed there was a racial incident. It’s kind of hard to tell from the video…it’s very confusing.”
3. Asha Burwell Openly Cried at a Rally to Support the Trio
Despite the mass rally at the University of Albany in support of the three students, TWC News in Albany reports that “tensions escalated on campus” after witnesses began speaking out about the trio’s actions on January 30. During one event, Asha Burwell began to sob as she addressed the crowd, prompting protesters to begin to chant, “Let Her Cry,” reports the Albany Times-Union.
The case was even taken up by rapper Waka Flocka on Twitter.
4. The Trio Are All Distinguished Students at the University of Albany
According to her Facebook page, Asha Burwell began studying at the University of Albany in 2013 and is due to graduate in 2017. She says she is pre-law on her Instagram page. In 2013, ‘s name was on the Dean’s List of Distinguished Students at the school. That list says Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell are natives of Huntington, New York, in Long Island. While Briggs is from Rensselaer, New York, a suburb of Albany.
5. The President of the University Previously Had Students Involved in Crime Would Be Held ‘Fully Accountable’
In a statement, University of Albany president Robert Jones said that if the “individuals responsible” for the alleged attack on Burwell, Agudio and Briggs, were students, the school would “hold them fully accountable for their behavior.” The full letter read:
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
Early this morning, three of our students were harassed and assaulted while riding on a CDTA bus on Western Ave. in Albany.
The students, who are Black women, stated that racial slurs were used by the perpetrators, whom they described as a group of 10 to 12 white males and females.
I am deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident. There is no place in the UAlbany community for violence, no place for racial intolerance and no place for gender violence.
I am out of town today. I have decided to cut my trip short and will be returning to Albany as soon as I can to address this situation.
In the meantime, I have been in direct contact with the Provost and executive leadership team and have directed that the University respond rapidly and forcefully.
Our police, our student affairs personnel and our Office of Diversity and Inclusion staff are working together to support our young women.
We are working closely with the Albany Police Department to identify the persons responsible. If those individuals are UAlbany students, we will hold them fully accountable for their behavior.
I call upon all members of the University at Albany to unite. We must show the world that we stand for inclusiveness and stand against bias, violence and hatred.
Our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will be held on the evening of Monday, Feb. 1. As we reflect on the principles and values that Dr. King stood for, let us come together in solidarity to reaffirm our values.
Now is the time to recommit to our principles of inclusivity and diversity and send a strong message that we will not tolerate bias, hatred and violence in our University.
Robert J. Jones
Prior to moving to the University of Albany, Jones was the senior vice president for academic administration at the University of Michigan.