Events of Deadly Relevance

An armed stand-off at ASU

This was the second time in less than two weeks that Viner had faced life-threatening violence at ASU.

On April 14, Viner was one of four blacks surrounded by 500 white students on fraternity row in the wee hours of the morning. As the mob pressed forward, the blacks were spat upon and a police officer on the scene reported hearing shouts of "niggers," "coons" and "porch monkeys." Four Valley police agencies were rushed to ASU to break up the brawl.

The black men's crime that evening was the color of their skin. They were jumped because they'd been mistakenly identified as the ones involved earlier in the evening in a fight at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. Despite being the victims of a white pack fired up by prejudice and the usual amount of weekend alcohol, the blacks were the ones handcuffed and taken to the police station that night. This "protective custody" is now under investigation by the FBI for possible civil-rights violations.

When the race riot in front of the SAE house was discussed in Viner's "Police Functions" class, Malmstrom told classmate Dean Sparks that, "the fucking niggers deserved it."

The week after the melee on Greek row, the campus was picketed for three days by students who ended their vigil by staging a sit-in at the student union and by issuing a set of demands for racial reform at the school. During that week, Malmstrom told classmates he vigorously supported the behavior of the white fraternity members.

At least one student was not entirely surprised by Malmstrom's remarks. Earlier in the school year, when a black woman had brought her child into the class, Kena Contrearas overheard Malmstrom say disapprovingly, "Black kids are always troublemakers."

On Saturday, April 22, the media carried reports that ASU President J. Russell Nelson had signed a twelve-point plan aimed at improving race relations at America's fifth largest university.

Three days later, Craig Malmstrom entered the "Police Functions" class armed with his semi-automatic 9mm pistol.

"It could have been a Stockton, California," said eyewitness Garrett Gilliam, referring to the schoolyard massacre earlier this year by a madman carrying an AK-47. After sitting through nearly an entire semester of the class with Malmstrom, Gilliam summed up the feelings of many of the students who'd agreed to discuss their brush with tragedy: "He did it because they were black. He did it because they were gang members. He did it because he was a bigot."

None of this warranted a single word in the daily newspapers, on radio broadcasts or by local television stations.

While tension mounts at the Arizona State Legislature over a deadlocked bill to restore the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., events of deadly relevance pass without mention.

The day after the terror in the ASU classroom, Senate President Robert Usdane, a Republican from Scottsdale, is on the phone. Insiders identify Usdane as the key to any hopes that remain for passing the King holiday this year. Two things stand out in the conversation with Usdane: He is unaware of the confrontation between Malmstrom and the blacks; he is adamant that the bill's only chance depends upon King supporters not causing a disturbance.

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