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Student who claimed to be victim of a hate crime by fire reportedly set the fire herself

A Wisconsin college student who reported being the victim of a hate crime when a small fire was set next to her dormitory room in April is now being charged with arson as video surveillance showed the student setting the fire herself. The student claims she was the victim of hate crimes on campus prior to the blaze.

Victoria Unanka, a student at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, claims she was the target of multiple hate crimes on the school’s campus during the school year. The fire, which Unanka initially reported as a crime against her, turned out to be Unanka’s own handiwork, as evidenced by security footage taken in the dormitory hall the night of the incident. The footage showed Unanka opening her dorm door, looking around to check that no one else was present in the hallway, then after going into a nearby bathroom, reappearing and starting the fire.

According to fire department officials, the fire was small enough not to set off the building’s smoke alarms or sprinklers. When officials reviewed the footage and discovered Unanka was likely the one who set the fire, they arrested her. She was later released on signature bond. Officials are still investigating the other alleged hate crimes against Unanka, and according to Viterbo president Glena Temple, are being taken seriously.

Temple said in an interview with the LaCrosse Tribune, “This is a complex situation that involves a series of concerning incidents. We continue to investigate the incidents earlier in the semester and any potential link between them and this fire.” Temple also said the school is working closely with Unanka and her family to investigate the possible hate crimes against her, and taking steps to ensure the safety of students at the school, telling the Tribune, “The investigation includes numerous interviews, handwriting analysis by an FBI certified analyst, the installation of additional security cameras, and an increased security presence.”

ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: LACROSSE TRIBUNE

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