Students Assaulted Over Break
Three Oberlin students were attacked during a period of two days over Thanksgiving break, leading to the hospitalization of one of the college students and the arrest of four high-school aged juveniles believed to be connected with the assaults.
Around 11 p.m. on Thanksgiv-ing, a male college student was physically assaulted by a group of more than ten individuals. The following evening, a female student was robbed by five to six individuals while talking on her cell phone outside of the Science Center. That same night, another male student was robbed by a similar grouping of assailants while riding his bike on Cedar Street. The latter two incidents both occurred around 8 p.m., and in both assaults the victims were threatened with a pistol that police later determined to be a BB gun.
Authorities have not released the names of the victims, but the male student attacked on Thursday night agreed to speak with the Review under the condition of anonymity. The student said that as he walked between Warner and Peters Hall, he was approached and surrounded by assailants wearing masks. As he attempted to make his way through the group, one person punched him in the face.
When asked to speculate on the motivations of his attackers, the student, who is Asian-American, said, “[They didn’t attack me] as an Asian-American. I perceived no racial motives behind the attack. No slurs were exchanged. They said something like ‘go back to the college.’ I couldn’t make it out exactly, but I know the college was mentioned in a disdainful tone. This led me to believe [the attack] was socio-economic [in motivation].”
The student was treated and released by emergency room personnel at Allen Memorial Medical Center Thursday night.
Following the final two assaults last Friday, Oberlin police apprehended four juveniles aged 15 to 16. Two are Oberlin residents and two are from Columbus. The juveniles were taken to the Lorain County Detention Home and charged with two counts of aggravated robbery.
As of press time, no one had been charged with the first assault; however, Director of Safety and Security Robert Jones told the Review that he believed the four accused teenagers were connected with all three incidents.
“They were the main players,” Jones said on Wednesday. One of the arrested teens had a pre-trial hearing this past Tuesday and the other three are expected to have hearings early this month.
Oberlin Safety and Security officers responded to the first attack, and city officers from the Oberlin Police Department responded to the robberies on Friday. In response to the first assault, Oberlin issued an alert to its students as required by federal law.
However, an alert did not go out on Friday after the two robberies. According to Jones, there was a communication breakdown inside his department, and it was unable to put out an alert.
“Something fell through the cracks, basically,” Jones said.
Dean of Students Linda Gates said that the College had been trying to follow up with all three students who were attacked.
“I think all three of them were contacted in one way or another,” said Gates.
In addition to providing assistance to the victims, Gates said that Oberlin has been trying to keep the College community updated on the crimes.
“We have the alerts up,” Gates said. “Aside from that, in this particular case, I think we have done all that we can do.”
Gates indicated that, in the future, the College is planning to educate students more fully on the importance of being wary about safety during breaks, when the campus population is reduced.
The assaults have left some students, including sophomore Conservatory student Molly Landis, feeling more vulnerable.
“I’m probably going to be a little more careful walking by myself at night,” Landis said. However, she also remarked that the incidents were not out of the ordinary. “There were a lot of assaults last year, so I guess it seems normal,” Landis said.
First-year College student Conor Shanahan said the assaults had not changed his confidence in the safety of Oberlin’s campus: “I feel pretty safe still; I haven’t had any anxiety.”
According to data released by the office of Safety and Security, there were four aggravated assaults and one robbery on campus last year. In the two years before that, only two robberies and one aggravated assault were reported.
“We have our peaks and valleys,” Jones said, who stressed that the incidents last week are not part of a trend. “It was a fluke of a thing…these guys got together and just wanted to commit havoc.”
With reporting by