Three white freshmen at the University of Mississippi are being sought for questioning in the racially-charged vandalism of the school’s James Meredith statue, according to the university.
A noose and a Georgia flag from before 2003 (the year the state flag stopped including a Confederate battle flag) were discovered on the statue Sunday morning. Authorities had said they were looking for two men seen in the area and shouting racial slurs, but added that the third man’s name was also prominent in the investigation.
The statue of Meredith, the school’s first black student, stands at the heart of the Ole Miss campus. It is the “most visible symbol of unity” on the school’s grounds, Dan Jones, the university’s chancellor, said in a statement earlier this week.
All three students are 19-year-old freshmen from Georgia, the school said. They were supposed to meet with the university police Thursday morning but did not show up, according to the school. On Thursday night, they declined through their attorneys to speak with university police without an arrest warrant.
Ole Miss said it could not release the names of the students unless charges are filed. In the statement, the university’s chief of police and general counsel said they believe there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the suspects.
A reward of $25,000 offered by the school’s alumni association was “instrumental in bringing quick results,” according to the school.
The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing that the three men were members of that organization’s Ole Miss chapter. The chapter voted to expel the three men, while the national fraternity said it had indefinitely suspended the Ole Miss chapter.