A Bosnian woman who told St. Louis police that she was the victim of a hate crime is being charged with making a false report.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Seherzada Dzanic reported she was the victim of a "fairly violent assault" involving a crowbar for being Bosnian. But as police investigated, Dotson said they found her story did not add up.
Dzanic told officers that she was attacked on Dec. 5th in the Bevo Mill neighborhood by three black men in their late teens or early 20s. Dzanic, who was discovered lying in the street by a passing motorist, told police the men showed a gun, struck her car with a metal object, went through her purse, and threw her on the ground. She reported losing consciousness from the attack.
At the time, Dzanic told police the men asked her where she was from, and she told them she was European. Dzanic told police the men called her a liar and allegedly said, "You're Bosnian. I should just kill you now."
At the time, Dotson classified the incident as a hate crime, and called in the FBI to help investigate. But Dotson said police investigating Dzanic's report found a surveillance video from a nearby business that showed "nothing happened that morning at the time and the place she said it did."
"The video showed her vehicle stopped in the middle of the street, nobody approaching the vehicle, no suspects," he said. "So when we confronted the victim at this point with the video, she admitted fabricating the story. She admitted she lied."
In a probable cause statement to support the charges of making a false report, Officer Brian Giljum states the footage shows Dzanic driving up to the location of the purported attack, but no other individuals around until the passing motorist discovers her. Giljum said in the statement that Dzanic said she made up the story due to “emotional issues.”
Chief Warrant Officer Ed Postawko said St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office did take those claims of emotional problems into account when deciding to charge Dzanic with one count of a class B misdemeanor of filing a false report.
"That’s taken into account, but it’s not going to justify it, it’s not going to excuse it," he said. "That statement [of the attack] was repeated not to just the initial officer, but to a number of officers as well. You have 10 days of investigation time, of police officers' resources spent basically chasing a ghost."
Dotson said that's why he's found the false report so "disheartening" and "troubling." He said officers know there is an incentive for suspects to lie, but it's difficult for police when a victim fabricates a story.
"This woman made up an incident, caused us to divert our resources from investigating more serious crimes," he said. "This young woman felt comfortable under the conversation that’s going on in our community now to come forward and make false allegations towards individuals that required us to do a significant amount of investigation. What it does say is Metro Police in the city does a thorough investigation."
Dzanic's report came the same week a Bosnian immigrant, 32-year-old Zemir Begic, was beaten to death by a group of black and Hispanic teens in the same neighborhood, though police said race was not a motivating factor. The death sparked peaceful demonstrations and concerns over growing crime in the neighborhood.
Dzanic was arrested Monday, but is no longer in custody. She faces up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine up to $500.