A Penn State student was charged after an incident early Saturday morning in which he followed another student home “because of [his] skin color” and then grabbed him by the throat, saying “Don’t make me put a bullet in your chest.”
The student, Nicholas Tavella, appeared intoxicated upon police arrival at the intersection of Bigler Road and Hastings Road, where he grabbed the other student, and admitted that he racially profiled him, according to court documents.
Tavella admitted that he followed the other student, who is of Indian descent, because “[he] had been acting suspicious” and appeared to be of Middle-Eastern or Asian descent, according to the documents.
Tavella was following the other student who was walking from Park Hill Apartments, 478 E. Beaver Ave., toward Nittany Apartments, 600 E. Pollock Rd. After the two came into contact on the street, Tavella asked if the other student was going to rape a girl, according to the documents.
While the other student tried to walk away, Tavella asked, “Are you trying to get away from me?” according to the documents.
Tavella, 19, is facing a felony charge for ethnic intimidation and misdemeanors for terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct, stalking and harassment, among other charges, according to the documents.
Tavella said to police that he “probably grabbed” the other student and “probably said something racist,” but couldn’t remember everything that happened because he had been drinking, according to the documents.
After his arraignment Monday morning, Tavella was released on $10,000 unsecured bail, according to the documents.
Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement Tuesday evening, regarding recent conversation of issues related to race, ethnicity, religion, intolerance, hate and discrimination, assuring that Penn State will remain steadfast to maintain a welcoming environment.
"There is no place for hate, overt or subtle, at Penn State — such actions do not represent our mutually held values," Barron said in the statement, which was emailed to all Penn State students. "Any violence that causes physical or emotional harm to any individual harms our entire community, too."
Barron commended students who participated in last year's "Penn State's Values and Culture Survey" as well as town hall meetings.
"We are here to learn from and about one another," Barron said in the statement. "Our diversity is critical to the education of our students, broadening their exposure to people from very different perspectives, economic and racial backgrounds and international viewpoints."
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said that, as a result of this incident, which resulted in threats and physical harm to another student, a disciplinary hearing will be held with the Office of Student Conduct, in addition to the criminal charges Tavella faces.
Penn State has also reached out to the student who was assaulted and offered any available assistance to ease concerns of emotional or physical harm, Powers said.
“We insist upon a welcoming and inclusive community,” Powers said, “and we are determined to effectively address incidents when they occur.”
Barron advised students who may have witnessed acts of intimidation or discrimination to report the behavior anonymously through the Office of Ethics and Compliance, either online or by phone at 800-560-1637.
Additional resources include 911, Penn State Police's online crime reporting form, Penn State’s Report Bias website, Penn State’s LGBTQA Student Resource Center, the Office of Student Conduct, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Affirmative Action Office and Penn State's Counseling and Psychological Services.