Four Waunakee teenagers are facing disorderly conduct charges in Dane County and are accused of driving in a Waunakee neighborhood with the windows open while yelling a racial slur.
The misdemeanor charges have been filed in Dane County Circuit Court against Dmitri E. Hechel, age 17, of Madison, along with Zachary J. Lange, age 18, Alexander J. Schweitzer, age 17, and Kael S. Spann, age 18, of Waunakee.
According to a criminal complaint, the incident was reported to Waunakee Police the morning of May 25 by a person who said earlier that morning, she heard “what she thought was possibly a motorcycle or a very loud car as well as hearing a group of boys yelling from the vehicle what she thought were racial slurs.” The person reporting the incident said she heard this at approximately 12:30 a.m., and said she thought they may have been yelling the “N” word.
The person’s child then located a SnapChat story which Schweitzer had posted of himself and a group of males with the window open “chanting” the word.
The person reported she “felt unsettled knowing those types of things were happening in town,” the criminal complaint states.
Waunakee police contacted Hechel, Lange, Schweitzer and Spann and interviewed them. According to the criminal complaint, Schweitzer “ultimately confessed he had been yelling racial slurs out the window of the vehicle. He explained they were simply being dumb.”
Lange “stated they had been yelling the N word out of the window. He had only done it a few times,” the criminal complaint states. According to the criminal complaint, Lange told the officer he was “exercising his free speech.”
Spann denied yelling during the first interview, according to the complaint, but when the officer interviewed Schweitzer, Lange and Spann together, they told they officer they had all been chanting the racial slurs, but Hechel was driving and he did not.
When police contacted Hechel, he said he chanted the word on video but “didn’t keep doing it.”
According to the criminal complaint, Hechel told police, “I found humor yelling loudly out a window, but I don’t know if it was intended for anyone. It was spontaneous, but stupid.”
When police re-contacted Lange, he denied chanting and said it was not directed at anyone, the criminal complaint states.
The video recorded May 25 was shared on other social media sites and prompted outcry in Waunakee, along with a larger discussion about racism. The Waunakee Village Board responded by releasing a draft statement condemning racism. A special village board meeting with a discussion and public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. June 25. The only item on the agenda is the public hearing and discussion on racism, tolerance and equality in the Waunakee Community.
If convicted, Hechel, Lange, Schweitzer and Spann could face a fine of up to $1,000 or no more than 90 days imprisonment.