Police in suburban Chicago have arrested a Muslim college student for allegedly faking a racist attack by a masked gunman, an attack police now say never happened.
Earlier this month, Safia Jilani, 19, was found by friends in the basement bathroom of the Schaible science building of Elmhurst College, claiming she was clubbed with a gun by a masked assailant. Anti-Muslim epithets were found scrawled on a nearby mirror, similar to a hate-filled graffiti that had been found on Jilani’s locker only a week earlier.
The college locked down the campus after the alleged attack and, according to the Chicago Tribune, later released an advisory warning students of a 5-foot, 8-inch, white male attacker guilty of committing a “hate crime.”
According to a joint statement just released from Elmhurst Police, the college and the state’s attorney’s office, however, there was no gunman, and the attack was staged.
“The totality of all the evidence, and interviews with staff and students at the college … concluded that this incident never happened,” Elmhurst Police Chief Steven Neubauer told the Tribune, though he refused to elaborate.
Word of the attack spread when Jilani, one of approximately 25 Muslim students out of 3,300 enrolled at Elmhurst College, sent a text message to friend Carly Notorangelo on the evening of Oct. 9, begging for help.
According to the Elmhurst Press, the text read, “Emergency. Basement of Schaible. Bathroom.”
Notorangelo told the Press she found Jilani unconscious on the floor of the bathroom with the words “Kill the Muslims” scrawled on a nearby mirror.
Jilani’s friends later reported that she had suffered bruised ribs and a concussion, though Jilani refused emergency medical care immediately following the incident.
Notorangelo told Chicago’s WBBM-TV, “I found my friend, my sister, one of the most courageous people I know, unconscious on the floor, because somebody hit her with a gun. Because they don’t think it’s okay for her to express her love for God by wearing a piece of cloth on her head.”
The next day, hundreds of students at the campus held a sit-in to protest the alleged hate crime and show their support for Jilani.
News of Jilani’s arrest and the staged attack has left students at the campus baffled.
“We had a rally,” said Richie Palys, a freshman jazz studies major, to the Tribune. “People cried over what happened, and her best friends gave speeches for her. I don’t even know what to believe anymore.”
Jilani has since surrendered to the authorities and has been booked on filing a false police report, a felony punishable by one to three years in prison.