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Abandoned Probe Yields Arrest

[whitespace] Lakim Washington Recovering Star: Lakim Washington is no longer in a coma, and a San Jose man has confessed to attacking him.

Metro article sparks tip and arrest in assault on SJSU black student leader

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

SAN JOSE STATE University police have made an arrest in the assault of Lakim Washington, the Black Student Union president who was attacked at the Spartan Village late on the night of Nov. 24. Washington suffered severe head injuries in the assault, which occurred at a public telephone in the student housing complex on 10th Street. Following the attack, he spent several days in a coma.

San Jose State student Farrell Hamann is charged with "battery with great bodily injury," and is currently free after posting $50,000 bail. Hamann, who is African American, has not yet entered a plea to the charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as many as four years in prison.

Hamann's arrest came as a result of a tip from a confidential witness, who contacted university police shortly after an article on the assault appeared in Metro. Prior to that article, university police had virtually abandoned their investigation into the matter.

Initially, university police tried to convince the local media that Washington might not have been the victim of an assault at all, but had collapsed due to a medical emergency. One police representative told the Spartan Daily student newspaper that the source of Washington's injuries "could range anywhere from a medical area to an assault. ... We have no evidence either way." Another officer told Metro reporters that the injuries "could have been the result of [Washington] having a seizure."

Washington's mother said she had been told by a university police officer that police had suggested the medical possibility in an attempt to put a lid on campus rumors that the assault on Washington had been a hate crime. An article that appeared in the Spartan Daily immediately following the attack quoted sources who suggested the attack was racially motivated.

University police now say they believe that Washington was the victim of a random act of violence. Their report on the case says that Washington and Hamann were "strangers" and that the 6-foot, 4-inch, 200-pound Hamann struck Washington once in the face with his fist after Washington refused to relinquish the pay phone.

Hamann would not speak with Metro reporters on the advice of his attorney. But in an article earlier this month, the Spartan Daily quoted Hamann as saying he was "very sorry" about the assault. "I didn't know he got hurt as bad as he did. I even tried to talk to him so that I could apologize, but I wanted to talk to him when he was alone and not around a group of people."

The Daily quotes Hamann as saying he struck Washington because when the student leader did not answer his request to get off the phone, "I took it as a sign of disrespect."

Washington has been released from San Jose Medical Center and is still recovering from his injuries. Reportedly, his medical condition does not yet allow him to return to school at San Jose State.

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From the March 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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