Santa Cruz police make a surprising reversal after accusing couple of a hate crime
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Two people who were arrested for an alleged hate crime were released from custody without charges in Santa Cruz, California, this week, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.

The arrests stemmed from a verbal altercation that took place this Saturday. While the case is not closed, new witnesses came forward with conflicting accounts of what happened.

"The case revolves around two couples who were walking their respective dogs around 11 a.m. Saturday on the 100 block of Blackburn Street, according to police reports," the Sentinel reports. "After the dogs reportedly became involved in a fight, police initially reported that Richard Wood III, 28, called a same-sex couple homophobic epithets and assaulted one of the men. Victoria Van Sandt, 29, also was accused of aiding in the assault and joining Wood in running from the scene."

Wood and Van Sandt later were booked on suspicion of assault, conspiracy, threats and violation of civil rights, which is a hate crime.

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"The Santa Cruz Police Department strongly denounces hate crimes of all kinds," the department said in a news release earlier this week.

But on Wednesday, Santa Cruz police said that two people who witnessed the event had contacted police with more information.

“Both eyewitnesses, who left before the responding officers arrived, provided additional evidence that sheds new light on the initial statements made to officers by the individuals involved in the altercation,” police said.

The Santa Cruz Police Department will look to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges should be filed, according to a press release.

Police are asking any additional witnesses to come forward.