Suspicious man reported in library

BY LEAH WILLINGHAM '17

Campus police responded to a call on Nov. 13 at around 8 p.m. regarding a man in the library who had followed a female student into a sixth floor women’s restroom and was attempting to take photos of her under the stall.

The incident was reported by the student and three of her friends who were studying in the library at the time. They were working in the Octagon room on the seventh floor when the student went down to the sixth floor to use the women’s bathroom by the elevator in the north stacks.

When the student went into the bathroom and entered the middle stall, she was followed fewer than 30 seconds later by man who entered the stall next to hers and locked the door. The student was seated in the stall when she looked down and saw a black Android phone pointed up at her with the camera light on. 

The student screamed, to which the individual with the phone responded by apologizing and rushing out of the room.

The student, who wished to remain anonymous, felt immediately shaken by the incident and went upstairs to tell her friends what had happened. 

“I was so shocked,” she said. “I went up to the seventh floor and I said, ‘I don’t know if I just imagined this, but I think I just saw a phone pointed at me under the bathroom stall.’” 

Although she hadn’t seen the man’s face, the student remembered seeing jeans and a pair of gray sneakers with orange laces under the stall. She and her friends decided to search the library for anyone who fit that description. They found a man on the sixth floor with orange laces sitting at one of the carrels by the stairs. 

When he saw them approaching, the man tried to duck behind the carrel.

“He noticed us looking at his shoes and he took the shoes off and put them in his backpack, which basically gave everything away,” one student said. 

One of the four decided to keep an eye on the man while the others went upstairs to call campus police. She saw him make a phone call that she couldn’t decipher before running downstairs, through the MEWS and outside. 

The student attempted to chase him down, but it was dark and he quickly disappeared. By the time Campus Police arrived, he was out of sight. 

The students returned to the sixth floor to warn other students about the man. Many of the students they talked to recognized him and said they had seen him in the area before. 

‘“They were like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s been here every single day for the past two weeks,’” a student said. “They said sometimes he’ll take his coat and his backpack and all his stuff into the bathroom, and he’ll sit there for hours in the stall with it locked. They said he’s always lurkingaround the bathroom and going in and out of it.”

Later, one of the students posted on Facebook about the experience and received many more responses from students who also claimed to have seen the man in the library before. She said this incident is a good reminder for students not to be afraid to report suspicious activity when they encounter it, although she admitted it isn’t always easy.

“It takes a lot of courage to do that,” she said. “But there were four of us, so that’s probably why we were more proactive about it. Even my friend who it happened to, she didn’t even know if she wanted to report it at first. But I was like, ‘You need to report it. There’s no way that this can go unreported.’”

Campus Police responded by putting up posters in the library with the man’s physical description the next day. They also created a sketch of the man basedon student descriptions, which was emailed out to the student body on Nov. 16. 

Deputy Police Chief Barbara Arrighi said sending out the composite photo was an attempt to “get as many eyes on the person as possible” in hopes that if he returns to campus, someone will see him and report it. 

She also said that since Sunday, Campus Police has been conducting regular rounds of the library and the bathrooms.

“I’ve told them, you can’t be there enough,” Arrighi said.

She admitted that she hadn’t encountered a situation like this at Mount Holyoke before. 

“This is an unusual situation. Hopefully with all the alerts going off, the person will go on to greener pastures, or we catch him to help alleviate some of the fears students have.” 

Arrighi recommended that students be aware, and report anyone that fits the description, even if they aren’t sure. 

“Don’t be shy about it. You can call us 50,000 times, that’s what we’re here for,” she said.

Mount Holyoke News

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