The last several weeks have seen a marked increase in reports of criminal activity at Western Carolina University.
Since Jan. 15, there have been three reports of sexual assault, one report of assault on a female and one report of armed robbery. Two students have been arrested in connection with two of the crimes.
Logan Christopher Holman of Vale is charged with 2nd Degree Sexual Offense, Sexual Battery and Assault on a Female for a Jan. 22 assault reported to WCU Police on Jan. 24. Holman, a resident of Central Drive Hall, is accused of assaulting a non-resident by inserting his fingers into the victim’s private parts, according to police reports.
WCU Police secured a warrant for the arrest of Holman on Jan. 25, who promptly left campus to consult with a lawyer according to officers on the case. He turned himself into authorities this week and is scheduled to have his first court appearance on Feb. 7.
On Jan. 15, a female student contacted campus police to report a sexual assault that occurred in Blue Ridge Hall in the early hours of the morning.
Sergeant Douglas Hester of the WCU Police Department said the victim “did not want the case to be investigated further” and that “she did not want to prosecute…and she asked that the alleged suspect in this case not to be held accountable at a university level. It was found in this investigation that there was no credible evidence to substantiate that a crime had occurred.”
The third sexual assault, which occurred on Jan. 22 in Scott Hall according to campus police reports, is still being investigated by WCU police. The victim reported the incident on Jan. 23 and officers questioned the victim and her RA.
When asked about the incident, Sgt. Hester said that WCU Police “are continuing to interview some folks” regarding the incident, and he believed that the case would be resolved quickly.
In response to the recent instances of sexual assault, WCU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sam Miller sent an email to students last week stating that “the alleged assaults occurred in social venues or where students live, and the victims knew the alleged perpetrators.”
He cautioned students to “avoid becoming intoxicated in public, at parties, or with acquaintances in your room,” and to “always let someone know where you are going, whom you are going with, and what your itinerary is.”
Sophomore Emily Absher said that she is worried by the spike in sexual assaults.
“It bothers me because I don’t feel comfortable walking around school alone at anytime of the day, because a lot of the assaults have happened during the day,” she said.
When asked if she takes any personal precautions against becoming a victim, Absher said, “I don’t talk to random people around campus unless I know them or a friend knows them.”
Many students share Absher’s concerns.
Chris Evans, a senior from Hickory said, “It’s a shame that so many of these things are happening. It seems that there have been a lot more instances like this in the past couple of years than when I was a freshman or sophomore.”
He believes that the rapid growth of the University over the past several years has influenced the increase in criminal activity.
“We used to be a smaller school, but with growth, we have taken on the crime issues of a larger university,” Evans said.
On Jan. 15, a female WCU student was assaulted outside of Starbucks by Hadi Hamad Almuhamid according to campus police reports. Almuhamid is accused of striking the victim across her face with his hand during a verbal altercation. Almuhamid was arrested by WCU Police on Jan. 18 and is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 14.
The reported armed robbery occurred on Jan. 17 in the South Baseball parking lot. Two WCU students were approached by an unknown individual and threatened with an object that was believed to be a handgun concealed beneath a sweatshirt. The suspect stole $40 in cash from the victims. That individual has not been arrested, and it is unknown if he is a Western Carolina student or not.