By Amy Sharaf
Ryerson security could have caught the man charged with spreading hate material on campus sooner, according to a letter distributed by a member of the Muslim Students Association.
In the letter, addressed to Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse, Nauman Abbasi, vice president of the MSA, said security had been told the accused was on campus four months prior to last week’s arrest.
Police said Kevin Haas was a person of interest before his arrest. “We commend the fact that he was caught, but we are disappointed that it took this long to capture him after he was identified by MSA members from the beginning,” Abbasi said.
Haas, 21, has been charged with two counts of threatening death and seven counts of mischief under $5,000. Prosecutors are also trying to charge him with hate crimes. Lajeunesse said the accusations contradict all the information he was given.
“I personally intervened to indicate that security should do everything that they professionaly could do to catch this individual and I was assured that had been done,” he said. “I think it’s totally, totally contrary to the facts to indicate that we’ve been slow.”
Security declined to comment on the letter. After the discovery of hateful graffiti in the Multifaith Centre on June 23, Abbasi said the MSA told security to look for a man who matches the description of the person now awaiting trial for the vandalism and threats.
MSA members said they saw the accused acting suspiciously outside the room after the vandalism. Abbasi said the man initially identified himself to MSA members as a Muslim named Kevin.
“No one had ever really seen him around Multifaith before,” Abbasi said.” We found that odd just because, for the most part, we know most of the Muslims who go to Ryerson. “Suddenly this person appears out of nowhere after this incident and he’s acting extra friendly and gauging our opinions on the matter. He was definitely giving us the impression that he knew more than he let on.”
Abbasi said the accused was later spotted on campus. Yaser Alyounes, head of the MSA external committee, said he saw the accused about four days after the Multifaith Centre was vandalized, and spoke to him in a nearby lounge. He said the man gave a traditional Muslim greeting and then said he was in the Israeli army and spoke Arabic and Urdu.
Other MSA members reported the accused to security when he made an offensive comment, Alyounes said. About a week after the Multifaith Centre incident, Alyounes and MSA President Ahmed Arshi met with security and said the accused was a person to investigate.
Alyounes and two other MSA members identified a tall, dark-haired man in a surveillance photo and were told to contact security if they saw him on campus again. Alyounes said the photo showed the accused entering the Business Building. One week before his arrest, Alyounes said he spotted the accused buying a hot dog outside the Library Building.
Alyounes said he called security, who told him they would send two guards to check it out. Security showed Alyounes a picture taken at the hot dog stand the same day and, though it was blurry, he identified the accused.
“They identified an image. They didn’t identify a person,” said Bruce Piercy, spokesperson for the universtiy.
Plainclothes security officers apprehended Haas around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18. He was caught allegedly posting hate literature outside the MSA office.