NEW: Sketch Released In USC Sexual Assault/Robbery Case
By Robert Kittle
Update: February 21, 2013
USC police and the State Law Enforcement Division released a sketch of a man they believe sexually assaulted a woman on USC's campus early Tuesday morning.
The subject is described as a black male, approximately 5'7" - 5'10" approximately 20-30 years old, and wearing all black and a hat, possibly a baseball hat.
Send related crime tips to law enforcement, or CRIMESTOPPERS at 1-888-CRIME-SC. To send anonymous tips via text or online, go to www.midlandscrimestoppers.com.
February 20, 2013
Students at the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus are upset by a crime alert they got Tuesday night, letting them know that a student had been raped and robbed sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning on campus.
According to University Police, a woman was walking in the 1400 block of Blossom Street, near the East Quad Residence Hall, when a man approached her and sexually assaulted her. Police say the man took her wallet and phone before fleeing the area.
The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10 inches tall, between 20-30 years of age, and wearing all black and a hat.
If anybody has any information about the rape and robbery they are asked to contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME SC. People can also send text or online tips to www.midlandscrimestoppers.com
But students are not just worried by the crime; they’re upset because they didn’t get the campus alert text message or email to let them know about it until more than 20 hours after the crime occurred.
USC junior Kamille Hayes, from Conway, says, "The alert was alarming in itself. I mean you can't stop crying, but we should have known about it way before 20 hours after the incident, especially because most of us live here and our classes are near here. Like this is our home when we're away from home, so we need to feel protected."
Other students tweeted their displeasure about being warned so late. Zach Lawson, a sophomore from Simpsonville, says, "When we got the text message, I really freaked out because I knew my sister was on campus at the time because she had a class.” But that was when he got the campus alert text at 9:25 p.m. Tuesday. When he realized the crime had happened more than 20 hours earlier, he wondered why it took so long to alert students.
USC spokesman Wes Hickman says part of the reason is that campus police weren’t notified about the crime until late Tuesday afternoon, more than 12 hours after it occurred. Once they found out about it, they decided that students weren’t in immediate danger because the rapist/robber had fled the scene.
“If that immediate threat does not exist, there's not a need to send something out in that instant,” Hickman says. “If we get into a situation where an immediate threat does exist, that's when you would see those alerts go out immediately."
He says if there were an active shooter on campus, or a tornado possibly headed for campus, then the campus alert system would kick in right away to warn students, faculty and staff. USC can send out warning text messages and emails within seconds, and also posts warnings to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. It also has sirens and loudspeakers around campus, can broadcast alerts by radio and can put warning crawls on all TV stations on the campus cable system.
USC president Harris Pastides sent a letter to students Wednesday saying, “I am outraged that our campus has fallen victim to senseless violence and I assure each of you that I will do all that I can to continue to make this campus safe for students, faculty and staff.”
The letter goes on to say that USC has six new police officers starting this week, with additional hires coming. He says the school will invest in additional technology, in addition to its current cameras and emergency call boxes, and will provide more late night shuttles and escorts.
It says he also met with Columbia’s mayor and city police to step-up collaborations with them, and that he called a meeting for Wednesday afternoon of the University Safety Committee to further discuss ways to keep the campus safe.