Racist graffiti, dead fish, and odd circumstances put Stevens Point couple on edge, bringing awareness to racism’s impact

The graffiti was cleaned up nearly a month after it was first discovered
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 8:26 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - It has taken over a month for racist graffiti to be cleaned up after a Stevens Point couple reported a series of strange events in April.

Rashad Cosby, 27, told 7 Investigates he largely keeps to himself. For the past three years, he has lived with his girlfriend, Dalee Kruzicki, in an apartment complex they say they enjoy living in. 7 Investigates is not naming the complex to protect the couple from further harassment.

In mid-April, Kruzicki took her usual walk on a trail from their complex and noticed racist graffiti targeted at Black people on the wall of the garage leading into their complex. While they notified the apartment manager, they did not do anything further until a few days later.

“(It was a) super nice day, you know, my friend actually just came by, and I talked to him for like five minutes,” Cosby said. “And then, probably like 10 minutes later, I heard a really loud bang, at my door. It actually sounded like it broke like something on the balcony. Super loud, kind of like, startled me and my cat. So, I didn’t think it was nothing. I checked the balcony. And then after that, probably like an hour later, I was going outside to go somewhere and then notice, you know, yogurt all over the place, two fish with their heads chopped off and a whole box of Cheez-its, whatever that means.”

It was April 13 and he estimated that happened around 2:30 p.m. A neighbor who came outside said his girlfriend noted the food was not there at 2 p.m. Cosby called the police and an officer took a report of both the food vandalism and graffiti.

Cosby said they really do not know their neighbors and they do not have any issues with anyone, so they do not know who could have done all of this or if this is all connected. The only thing they could think of was a few days earlier around 9 p.m. someone had called police on them for a noise complaint after they had been briefly arguing about a basketball game.

“It was a relatively minor, verbal disagreement,” Lt. Joe Johnson of the Stevens Point Police Department noted. “Both parties agreed to separate and go their ways, and there was no enforcement action by law enforcement at all.”

He added, while officers noted the call, it did not warrant a full police report. All three incidents have the couple tensely puzzled.

“It really did feel almost like a prank, you know, just because, like, it made no sense,” Cosby began. “You know, and like...”

“Well, broad daylight like that too like, it’s just surprising,” Kruzicki added.

“It’s a little tense at times, you know, like coming outside now, you know,” Cosby continued. “Like, I know, there’s somebody at my place who doesn’t like me whatsoever, you know, and I have no idea who they are or they you know, they could be living there. I don’t know if it’s a bystander, someone walking by, but think they clearly know who I am, you know? And that’s I guess that’s the scary part is just them knowing who I am and us not knowing anything about them at all.”

For the last month, they have been wary with the graffiti still on the wall, which they found odd because the management and maintenance of the apartment complex are usually kept up. The couple said when there is an issue, they notify the whole complex and take care of things in a timely manner. 7 Investigates reached out to the apartment manager Friday but did not hear back. The next day, Cosby said he saw the graffiti was painted over, but he never heard from the manager.

He said he had not gotten any update from the police either, though he even mentioned to the officer taking the report he understood it was unlikely the people who did either of these things would be caught. However, he did expect some investigation.

Listening to the exchange between the officer and Cosby in the body camera footage, it was never explicitly said, but the officer and Cosby talked about making contact with neighbors and the apartment manager to get more information or possibly check for any cameras, but it seemed they both implied the other would be having those conversations. Lt. Johnson told 7 Investigates after reviewing the report, the officer did not touch base with the apartment manager and left the scene without checking in with more neighbors.

“In this case, you know, there’s no real evidence that you can gather other than for talking to people and looking for maybe some video cameras, if people have ring doorbells, or if there’s cameras around the property, potentially, or just your eyewitnesses, so you can kind of canvass the area,” he said. “During this investigation, the complainant had kind of already done that and there weren’t any cameras available. So the officer kind of took the complainant’s word that the neighbors hadn’t seen anything, nobody kind of knew what was going on or anything like that.”

However, Cosby had only spoken with the next-door neighbor, not others. He mentioned he would be contacting the apartment manager about whether he would be allowed to install a video doorbell, as he had seen one on another apartment door, but he did not mention he would be asking about further possible footage.

The officer ended the call by urging Cosby to let him know if anything else happens and to practice being safe, like locking their door and getting that video doorbell if possible.

“I just feel like they didn’t take it that very serious(ly) as far as you know, ‘yeah, it could be a prank or something like that.’ Or you can look at it as you know a targeted, you know, hate crime.”

Lt. Johnson told 7 Investigates they would reach back out to the apartment manager and touch base with Cosby. Cosby has not had any further issues so far.

Cosby said he does not want to be a bother or make a big deal out of all of these circumstances, especially if these incidents are separate, however, they do not feel separate to him and Kruzicki. He said there is only one other Black person that he knows of in the complex and the incidents, due to the proximity in time and the direct targeting of his home, feels personal to him.

“Literally every day when I open the door now, I do just have that you know, I definitely look at the door not expecting yogurt, but just you know, you just never know now and just have that tension, you know, that someone’s just don’t like me.”

He explained his family has previously moved from another Wisconsin community in part due to racial incidents. It is frustrating to him because he said, overall, Stevens Point has been a welcoming place to live and he has not had these issues in the five years he has lived in the area.

There is a lot of research noting the impacts racism has on a person’s health. David Pate with the University of Wisconsin, Madison said it is called weathering. It is a term created by two physicians in 1993 who saw key factors related to chronic stress.

“Any amount of stress that people have to deal with on a regular basis because of surveillance they may be under or their life is compromised by financial insecurity, that it does take a toll on your morbidity and mortality.”

Pate said this includes not feeling welcomed in your own home environment. He said helping ensure all community members feel welcome and safe is key to lowering that chronic stress. The Wisconsin Medical Journal dedicated an entire special issue about the impact of race and racism on health in 2021. To read the research and findings, click here.