YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tuesday, Youngstown State officials told WKBN that police have information but no solid leads in trying to figure out who painted pro-terrorism messages on the school’s rock Monday.
Police said there is no surveillance video with a direct view of the rock, which is located in the heart of the university, just outside the Kilcawley Center. Police are scouring video that shows area near the rock for clues as to the identity of the suspect or suspects.
On Monday, police also discovered graffiti in the third floor men’s bathroom in Cushwa Hall. Several words which appeared to be in Arabic were written on the wall of the bathroom, according to a Youngstown State University Police report. Police did not say whether it was related to the graffiti found on the rock and could not immediately translate the message.
Assistant Vice President for University Relations Shannon Tirone said that she and other school officials are checking the truth of reports that various community members are offering rewards to catch whoever painted the rock. Tirone said that if they are, the school will reach out to those people to explore potential partnerships.
In the meantime, there has been widespread criticism over the time it took administrators to issue a release about the graffiti. The release came nearly four hours after campus police were first notified, time which Tirone claims was needed to get all the facts.
“Going back to it, we probably could have indicated something a little bit sooner,” Tirone said. “By no means am I saying this is the right answer, because i’m second-guessing this in my own mind.”
Students held a peace rally on campus in response to the messages written on the school’s rock, and they repainted the rock Monday afternoon to cover the messages, which caused shock and outrage.
“We’ve reached out to a lot of our student organizations that were active and on campus over the weekend to see if they saw anything that was suspicious or out of the ordinary,” Tirone said. “And we continue to ask the university community and the students to call the police department if there was anything that might have come to mind recently that they can share with us.”
Multiple viewers submitted messages to WKBN with photos of the rock, which is located outside the school’s Kilcawley Center and is frequently used to advertise for events on campus. One side said, “YSU supports ISIS.” Other messages seen in viewer-submitted photos are, “France deserves destruction,” “Jihad over God ISIS,” and “We are coming.”
Some symbols that looked like Arabic were written above the words, “We are coming.” Tirone said that after talking with translators, there is good reason to believe that the symbols were not actual Arabic but were someone’s attempt to mimic the language.
Groundskeepers quickly painted over the messages with white paint. It was not immediately clear who painted the rock or when or why they did so.
The university is asking for the public’s help in identifying whoever painted the school’s famous rock with messages supporting the terrorist group ISIS Monday.
Tuesday, school officials said that anyone with information can submit an anonymous tip online to the university police department, or call the police department’s dispatch line at 330-941-3527.
Tirone says even if the painting turns out to be a prank, those responsible could face disciplinary action if they are caught.