Chapel Hill, N.C. — An alleged hate crime against a gay student on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus last week was false, officials said Tuesday.
Chancellor Holden Thorp said a student who told authorities he was branded with a searing hot object because of his sexual orientation filed a false police report and that it will not be reported as a hate crime.
"The alleged aggravated assault reported to campus last night did not occur," Thorp wrote in a statement.
Freshman Quinn Matney, who is gay, told authorities that on April 5, a man walked up to him near a foot bridge on campus, called him a derogatory name, told him "here is a taste of hell," and held a heated object to his skin for several seconds, leaving third- and fourth-degree burns.
Randy Young, a spokesman for UNC's public safety department, said charges of filing a false police report are likely against Matney.
University officials initially called the assault a hate crime and pledged to "bring the strongest possible charges against the attacker."
Thorp said the university takes incidents of harassment seriously, but did not release any additional details.
In an interview with WRAL News Monday, Matney described the alleged attack in vivid detail. He said the branding felt like "relentless burning, searing pain."
"It has burned all the way through the flesh and is burning through muscle and tendon," Matney said. "He never actually let go until I punched him full in the face."
He added that he has an infection and limited movement in some fingers, and nerve damage that may require surgery.
He said his attacker was not a student, but that he had seen him on campus before.
"I have never spoken to him. I never said a single word to him," he said.
Matney's friends said they don't know what to believe.
"It is just absurd to make something like that up on the spot," said Rachel, who didn't disclose her last name.
Chloe, who didn't disclose her last name either, said she doesn't believe that Matney would lie about the story. She said the university should "take a little more time about the decisions we are making about this issue and how it looks to the community at large."