Two Mizzou students arrested for cotton ball hate crime

University of Missouri police have arrested two white naval midshipmen for spreading cotton balls in front of the campus TM black culture center.

Senior Zachary Tucker, 21, and freshmen Sean Fitzgerald, 19, were arrested Tuesday about 7:30 p.m., after authorities received an anonymous tip.

Fitzgerald and Tucker have been arrested on the suspicion of one count of felony each of tampering and could face "enhanced penalties" under Missouri TMs hate crime law. Investigators say the two suspects spread cotton balls in front of Mizzou TMs Black Culture Center on Friday.

We do presume that they are innocent until found guilty in a court of law," Black Culture Center Director Nathan Stephens said. "There is a student conduct process that we go through here at the University of Missouri. I think those systems just have to allow themselves to be played out.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton has temporarily suspended the two students arrested on suspicion of hates crimes.

In addition to being suspended from Mizzou, the two midshipmen have also lost all privileges with MU TMs Naval ROTC program.

Military leaders have put Fitzgerald and Tucker on an interim leave of absence from MU TMs Naval ROTC program. The accused students are midshipmen in a battalion under the command of Captain Robert Wilson.

They are average college students," Wilson said. "Nothing really stood out about them. They are very average. They are typical students here at the university.

Authorities released Fitzgerald and Tucker from the Boone County Jail after they each posted a $4,500 bond. Their first court appearance is scheduled for March 29. Both face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

The Boone County Prosecutor TMs Office has until March 29 to file formal charges.

Prosecutors do not expect it to take that long as they wait for additional reports from MU Police Investigators.

I can TMt give out any more details about the investigation," MU Police Captain Brian Weimer said. "With the facts that we had last night, these are the charges that are appropriate. That TMs what we went with.