A 26-year-old woman admits she was lying when she told police a group of black men targeted and assaulted her because she is Bosnian, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Seherzada Dzanic was charged with making a false report, a Class B misdemeanor, Monday after investigating officers found surveillance footage showing she was not attacked.
"The video showed her vehicle stopped in the middle of the street, nobody approaching the vehicle, no suspects," Chief Sam Dotson tells St. Louis Public Radio. "So when we confronted the victim at this point with the video, she admitted fabricating the story. She admitted she lied."
Dzanic told police on December 5 she was driving in the Bevo Mill neighborhood when three black men in their late teens or early twenties stepped in front of the car and pulled out a handgun. She said the men struck her car with a metal object, forced her from the car, rummaged through her purse and threw her to the ground, where she lost consciousness, according to court documents. A passing motorist discovered her and called police.
Dzanic told police the attackers asked her where she was from. When she told them she was European, they said, "You're a [expletive] liar. You're Bosnian. I should just kill you now," she told police.
The mention of Dzanic's nationality made the assault against her a hate crime, and police called the FBI for help with the investigation. Dzanic repeated her story to three St. Louis police officers.
Dzanic's false report includes elements from the violent murder of Zemir Begic, a Bosnian man who was stopped in his car, attacked and beaten to death by four teenagers with hammers while driving in the same neighborhood. Begic was killed days before Dzanic gave her story to police.
So far, police have said the attack against Begic was not racially motivated. Four teens are in custody: three juveniles and seventeen-year-old Robert Joseph Mitchell, who has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Police realized Dzanic's story must not be true when officer Brian Giljum found a surveillance video that would have shown the attack. Instead, the video only shows Dzanic driving into the area, where she was alone until another driver found her and called police.
"Review of the video revealed that the incident reported by the defendant did not take place," Giljum says in the probable cause report.
When police confronted her with the video evidence, she admitted she'd made up her story and said she was suffering from emotional issues.
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office said officials took Dzanic's emotional issues into account when charging her with a Class B misdemeanor for filing a false report.
"That's taken into account, but it's not going to justify it, it's not going to excuse it," Chief Warrant Officer Ed Postawko tells St. Louis Public Radio. "That statement was repeated not to just the initial officer, but to a number of officers as well. You have ten days of investigation time, of police officers' resources spent basically chasing a ghost."
Police arrested Dzanic Monday, but she is no longer in custody. She faces up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $500.