FBI says no federal crime committed at Talladega

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The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office stated Tuesday that no federal hate crime was committed with the noose found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace‘s team on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp stated:

“On Monday, fifteen FBI special agents conducted numerous interviews regarding the situation at Talladega Superspeedway. After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed.

“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.

“The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.”

The announcement led to a backlash among some on social media and led some to question Wallace, who was not in the garage and was not aware of the matter until informed by NASCAR President Steve Phelps.

Asked Tuesday night on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” how he was doing, Wallace said: “I’m pissed. I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity. They’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re trying to test me. … To sit there and read (social medial) … I’m investing too much time into it.”

Wallace defended Phelps, noting how Phelps went to Wallace’s motorhome on Sunday to address the matter of a noose in his garage stall. Wallace said Phelps had tears as he talked to Wallace.

“It showed the testament to him and the character that he has and how he is representing the sport, how he wants to stand up for what’s right and he’s not going to tolerate any racist acts or anything,” Wallace said. “I stand behind NASCAR.”

Wallace said he will remain the same person he is and how “I’ll shoot it to you straight each and every time because that’s how I was brought up and that’s what I stand by.

“In my statement on Sunday night, this will not break me, none of the allegations of it being a hoax will break me or tear me down,” Wallace said. “Will it piss me off? Absolutely. That only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up, to get back out on the racetrack (this) weekend at Pocono and showcase what I can do behind the wheel under tremendous amounts of BS, whatever it is you want to say. It won’t break me. It won’t tear me down. Again, I will still stand proud of where I am at.”

NASCAR stated that every garage stall was checked and only one had a noose as part of the rope to pull down the garage door. NASCAR plans to check every garage stall before teams arrive at each event.

Phelps said in a brief teleconference with reporters Tuesday night that he was thankful that there was no crime but NASCAR would continue to investigate why the rope was fashioned into a noose.

“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” he said. “This was disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime. I do want to make sure that everyone understands that if given the evidence we had, was delivered to us (Sunday) night or late Sunday afternoon, we would have done the same investigation. It was important to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It’s not a part of who we are as a sport.

“I want to make sure everyone understands that our portion of this with the FBI, we were very cooperative as you would expect. We provided them with roster information, photographic and video evidence that aided them in their conclusions. Additionally, the industry was very supportive. Not just the members of (Wallace’s) team.

“I want to be clear about (Wallace’s) team. The 43 team had nothing to do with this. The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had there in October (2019), that noose was present. The fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact. We had not been back to the garage. It was a quick one-day show. The crew member went back there. He saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR (Cup) Series Director Jay Fabian and we launched this investigation.

“To be clear, we would do this again. Of the evidence we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this.”

Phelps went on to discuss Monday’s show of unity from drivers and crew members for Wallace before the race.

“I also want to talk about (Monday),” he said. “(Monday) to me as a sport was one of the most important days we’ve had. It’s one of the most kind of indelible print on my mind until the day I die, seeing the support that Bubba had from not just the drivers but all the crews, all the officials who were down in pit road, anyone who was part of that footprint. Everyone wanted to show their support for a family member of NASCAR. We are one big family. We are one large community. And everyone’s belief is that someone was attacking a member of our family.

“It turned out that that was not the case, but at the time that’s what our industry thought, so drivers, crews, our officials, everyone supported Bubba Wallace and the 43 team, and that was a very powerful image in not just the history of our sport but I think in all sports.”

Phelps took no questions from reporters.

Immediately after the statement from the FBI and U.S. Attorney, NASCAR issued a statement:

“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime. The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment. We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.

The Wood Brothers issued a statement with regard to having that garage stall in 2019.