By Bryan K. Alfaro | THE EASTERN ECHO
Added November 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm
The police case involving an assault on a female Eastern Michigan University student near the east side of Ford Hall on Oct. 13 is now classified as inactive because of a lack of leads to move the case forward.
EMU’s Department of Public Safety interim chief Robert Heighes said officers work hard to solve cases, and nobody wants to catch the suspect more than the DPS does, but investigators don’t have much to go on.
“We have a minimal amount of information,” Heighes said. “If somebody calls and provides us with information on [the case], then it would be moved from inactive to an open investigation.”
The student, who requested her age be withheld from the press, told EMU police she left Pray-Harrold walking alone southward toward her residence off campus, and along the way she became aware of someone following her.
When she reached the east side of Ford Hall, the suspect came at her from behind and grabbed her around the upper body. The victim was able to break free from her attacker and escaped unharmed, but was unable to tell police what direction the suspect fled on foot.
Heighes said investigators have no reason to believe the attack is related to the Ann Arbor attacks between July 15 and Sept. 13.
“People are trying to make this connection between this event to the Ann Arbor one, and we don’t want to make that connection because we have nothing to support that whatsoever,” he said.
Victims in the Ann Arbor cases have described their attacker as a white- or olive-skinned man between 20-30 years old, while the EMU attacker was described as a medium-tone African-American male, 16-20 years old.
Ann Arbor Police spokeswoman Lt. Renee Bush said there have been no new developments in the seven Ann Arbor cases.
Heighes said the EMU attack is classified as an assault case because there is no evidence to support a sexual assault.
“He put his arm around her and that was it. She broke, ran away from him. He didn’t chase her or say anything even to her,” he said.
He went on to say the suspect’s motive is unknown and it would be speculation to assume the attack was sexual in nature.
There have been 12 criminal sexual conduct cases reported to EMU police from 2008-2010, according to the DPS Annual Security Report. Heighes said the university made a “significant investment” over the past couple years to increase security by installing more than 400 security cameras throughout campus, allowing DPS to record and view in real time.
However, Heighes said technology is just a tool and is no more important than help from the community.
“We are just one piece of the puzzle and we need all of you to help us, because that makes us more effective,” he said.
He said officers who reviewed the Oct. 13 recordings were not able to locate the suspect on camera.
“Other times cameras have been great for solving crimes here on campus, because we can put a person in a certain area at a certain time,” he said. “And we have them on film and then we work backward from there, and you can actually trace their pattern.”
Heighes said EMU’s campus is patrolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but there are only 33 officers and EMU’s Institutional Research and Information Management website reported almost 28,500 students currently enrolled at the university – a ratio of one officer to roughly every 860 students.
Students can also utilize Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety to be escorted to and from any location on campus at night by calling 734-487-3387.
EMU also has 58 emergency assistance stations equipped with security cameras located in the entryways of buildings around campus, as well as 42 emergency telephones located throughout the main campus and the College of Business; both act like panic buttons that connect directly to the DPS and can be identified by blue strobe lights mounted above them.
EMU Crime Prevention Officer Candace Dorsey also offers lectures and training on campus safety throughout the year, such as rape aggression defense systems.
The DPS website offers safety tips like: Be aware of your surroundings; try to remain calm and be an attentive witness; dial 911 on campus land lines, but dial DPS directly at 734 -487-1222 from a cell phone; don’t wear headphones while walking at night; plan your route to avoid isolated areas, remain alert and don’t block your vision; use the SEUSS service; and be aware of emergency phone and assistance locations.
Anyone with information related to the Ford Hall incident is asked to contact the EMU Police Department at 734-487-1222.
Eastern Echo article archive: No Leads on Recent Assault