Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lynchburg Safety Alert

My dorm has now enacted a 24/7 guest escort policy, and the building will be closed off to allow access only to us seniors. This is a good because the last few weeks have resulted in increasing safety problems all around Lynchburg. More computers were stolen at Lynchburg College recently, and we received the following email today.

Be careful, everyone! I'll be back next week!

Police release sketch of man in Liberty University stabbing

By Carrie J. Sidener and Dave Thompson;

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Police now have an idea of what the man who attacked a student in a women’s restroom on Liberty University’s campus looks like.

A composite sketch was released Wednesday of the man who is believed to have stabbed a student in the hand Tuesday evening in a second-floor women’s bathroom of the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center.

Campus security has increased because of the attack and authorities are asking students to stay alert and travel in numbers, said Ron Godwin, Liberty’s executive vice president. Students who request it will be escorted to their destination after dark, he said.

The security measures will remain in place until the man is arrested, Godwin said.

“It needs to be remembered that this assault happened on the second floor at 5:45 p.m. in a building literally teeming with people,” Godwin said. “That’s what’s even more startling.”

The DeMoss center is one of LU’s main academic buildings, with classrooms, computer services, the library, and the central university bookstore.

The attack happened when a man approached the women’s restroom with a foldout wet floor sign, Godwin said. He set up the sign outside the women’s bathroom after the student walked inside, then slipped quietly inside and put on a ski mask.

The victim, whose name is not being released, was in the bathroom stall when he entered, Godwin said.

“She had no idea that he had entered the room,” Godwin said.

The man forcefully entered the stall and moved to stab her. She raised her hands to defend herself and screamed. That’s when the man ran out, grabbed the wet floor sign and fled, Godwin said.

The wet floor sign was found later in the stairwell.

“I talked to the young lady myself this afternoon,” Godwin said Wednesday evening. “The trauma of the event was worse than the actual injury.”

Godwin said she received stitches in her left hand. The woman is receiving counseling and is “supported by a very strong circle of family and friends.”

Liberty has 80 police officers and security personnel and has brought in expertise from the Lynchburg Police Department and the Virginia State Police to assist in the investigation.

“Nothing about this has to do with adequate or inadequate security,” Godwin said. “There is no way to anticipate all the possible incidents that could happen that have never previously happened. This is a first for Liberty and it happened in the most unlikely place - the second floor of the most densely populated place.”

The Lynchburg Police Department is providing investigators and consulting on the case. The Virginia State Police is also providing experts from its criminal investigations unit, which produced the composite sketch.

Major Andy Vest of the Lynchburg Police Department said city officers are assisting Liberty at the campus police department’s request.

The Liberty University Police Department has been in operation since 1997. Its officers are sworn law enforcement and have gone through the same basic training as other police departments, Vest said.

“They call us when they need assistance,” Vest said. “When they have something serious like this, they call us right away. … We treat it just as if it’s one of our cases. We work it jointly.”

Some students on campus are taking the attack more seriously than others.

“We joked about it, but then we all walked back to our dorms alone,” Jen Slothower said Wednesday afternoon.

For some students, the only notification they received was an e-mail alert sent to the students on Tuesday night.

Some didn’t realize anything was going on until they received the e-mail or heard of the incident from other students.

“I had no idea about it until after curfew last night at about like 10,” said Justin Melvin, who didn’t see the e-mail, since his computer is broken.

Slothower was returning from work and saw the ambulance parked in front of the DeMoss center.

“I just thought somebody had breathing problems or something insignificant like that,” she said.

Melvin said several students are taking precautions, namely carpooling and trying to stay in groups after dark.

“I don’t think we’re on lockdown mode like everyone’s scared to step outside, but at the same time people are taking slight precautions.”

“It hasn’t really sunk in, I don’t think, to a lot of people,” he added.

Aleisia Lossau said girls in particular should be safety-minded.

“If girls are smart, they’re smart, and they’re not by themselves,” she said.

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