Chico State Student Body President Attacked in Hate Crime Stabbing

In what is being described by law enforcement authorities as a hate crime, the student body president of a California university was sent to the hospital with stab wounds.

Joseph Igbineweka, a Nigerian-born political science major, is a senior at the University of California, Chico, commonly called Chico State. He is also active in campus politics, as the president of that school’s student body.

Igbineweka was reportedly walking with friends on Warner Street, an area near the university where many students live, when he passed two men who began yelling racial slurs at him. Initially Igbineweka ignored the shouts, but when they followed him and continued the taunts, he eventually turned around. One of the men struck him, and although Igbineweka fought back, the attacker began to stab him with a pocket knife before fleeing on foot.

The 23-year-old Igbineweka was stabbed at least four times, in the neck, arm, stomach and chest, according to Chico police Sergeant Rob Merrifield. His worst injury is a gash to his arm, and although he was hospitalized after the attack, he is listed as being in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

A suspect, Barry Sayavong, was apprehended about a block away from where the attack took place. He was arrested and will face charges of attempted murder and a hate crime. Sayavong, of Chico, is 19 years old. The other man who was yelling insults at Igbineweka was not identified or apprehended.

Igbineweka, who came to Richmond, California from Nigeria with his family when he was 15, is well-known and well-respected both in the city of Chico and on the campus.

A spokesman for the university, Joe Willis, said that the student body president of the school is like a public figure in Chico, which has a population of about 100,000. “When violent crimes happen in this and other communities, it is very disturbing,” said Willis. “This is a hate crime and a very big deal.”

The mayor of Chico, Ann Schwab, issued a joint statement with university President Paul Zingg. “Today, our thoughts are with Joseph hoping for his full recovery,” read the statement, which also called the attack “an assault on the values of civility and respect for other people that both Chico State and the city of Chico work so hard to ensure.”

From his hospital bed, Igbineweka urged members of the community to “continue the conversation” about prejudice, violence and hate crimes, and said that he was eager to return to campus and stay active in the struggle against intolerance.

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