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Police investigation finds audio of racial slur used against Utah women's basketball team

The police investigation into what Utah women's basketball head coach Lynne Roberts described as a series of "racial hate crimes" directed at her team last month has discovered an audio recording in which a racial slur could be heard.

"Since these incidents were originally reported to the Police Department, detectives have conducted interviews with the involved parties," read a statement posted on Facebook by the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Police Department. "Additionally, detectives have collected approximately 35 hours of video from businesses in the area where the incidents occurred. Not all of the video recordings had associated audio. Detectives are analyzing all of the video/audio to gain accurate suspect information and to establish a timeframe and continuity from the various video perspectives.

"Some of the surveillance video/audio corroborates what was reported by members of the basketball program and detectives are currently working to locate any additional evidence.

"We've identified an audio recording where the use of a racial slur was clearly audible. We're working determine the context and conduct associated with its use to determine if is a violation of the law. While we're still reviewing evidence, it appears the use of a racial slur occurred more than one time."

The incident took place ahead of Utah's first-round NCAA tournament game. According to the school, "a vehicle drove by and occupants shouted racial epithets" at the basketball team and the rest of the team's traveling party as they walked from the hotel to have dinner at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant.

The Utah contingent ate dinner, only to face a similar situation when they left the restaurant. A vehicle, according to the Utah statement, slowly passed the group, "revving its engine with its occupants again shouting racially disparaging words and threats."

After Utah's second-round loss, Roberts revealed what happened, describing the incidents as “shocking” and said “no one knew how to handle it.”

"It was really upsetting," Roberts said. "For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA tournament environment, it's messed up."

Following the incident, the team moved to a different hotel closer to the host city.

Utah's women's team originally stayed more than 30 miles east of Spokane at the Coeur d'Alene Resort because hotel space in Spokane was limited. Spokane was a predetermined host site for the first and second round of the men’s NCAA tournament, which meant that hotel rooms for those eight teams were blocked off well in advance.

Some of those room blocks opened when the first men's teams in Spokane were eliminated. A source familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg that Gonzaga and the NCAA scrambled to hold those room blocks and offered them to Utah and UC Irvine, the other women's team staying in Coeur d'Alene.

The NCAA later issued a statement that it "condemns racism and hatred in any form" and that it is "devastated about the Utah team’s experience." When asked whether the NCAA will continue to hold events in Spokane or allow teams to be housed in Coeur d'Alene, an NCAA spokesperson did not respond.

Coeur d’Alene Police Department said in its Thursday statement that detectives are looking to identify a silver passenger car that was in the area at the time of the incident.