Shayla DiTolla, News Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Ellen Hicks
On Tuesday, September 12, the Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman and Campus Police officer Jerry O’Dell apprehended a homeless man fitting the general description of a suspicious individual seen by multiple students on campus.
The first student report was filed on September 1. At least two other students filed reports over the course of the next two weeks, describing a man in his late 40s, brown hair, glasses, with a tall and thin stature. The man often would “sprint away” when it was clear that students felt threatened or hinted that they were concerned.
One witness, Marshanda Wells, described the same individual on September 1. When heading to Wiley Jackson Hall at night, Marshanda reported, she saw “this man was crouched down sitting at the Alumni Plaza wearing a blue painter’s suit and when I walked by, he shot up and began following behind me. I started walking faster because I was uncomfortable, and when I finally got to MaWa I asked the guy standing inside if he had seen the man. When I looked back, he was sprinting toward Stuart.”
The recent reports of the suspicious individual has made many students–female students especially–question their safety on campus.
Although people only saw the suspicious person without much interaction, the idea that anyone can come onto campus at any given time has become much more prominent with the experiences of students within the past few weeks.
One student, Junior Sharon Looney, explained her frustrations about the inaction of Chief Administrators during early reports. She said, “I still have an email saved from months ago about the presence of bears on campus…so why would they not send one as soon as possible for these reports? I just think it’s ridiculous that we can get an immediate email about bears, but where is our warning that there may be an active stalker on campus?”
Since then, Vice President of Student Life and Student Success and Dean of Inclusion John Holloway reached out to the Emory & Henry community in an email which addressed the situation. Holloway’s email went out thirteen days after the first report of this suspicious individual and two days after the individual was apprehended.. Holloway reported that while the man was not arrested, he “was instructed not to return to campus.”
When asked about the delay in releasing this information, Holloway explained that he was “waiting for all the facts to come in, so that I wouldn’t spread any more misinformation.” He went on to say, “I want to make sure that all members of our community feel that we are taking their reports seriously. I know that our police department is in fact investigating this issue, and a man was apprehended on Tuesday.”
Despite the fact that Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman and Campus Officer O’Dell apprehended a homeless man that seemed to fit the general description, Holloway said, “I also underscore that we don’t know if this is a confirmation of the individuals. I’m asking all the students to remain diligent.”
O’Dell also commented on the recent investigation, citing the issues and challenges this particular case has brought. He said, “The problem we have been running into is that people are calling their friends, or they put it on social media, but they didn’t call us. We would really like to emphasize to people that we have this state of the art, cutting-edge technology in our LiveSafe app and we want people to use it to be safe.”