Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Monday, May 4th, around 7 PM, Swarthmore Police and College Public Safety were summoned to the Wharton residence hall after reports of an armed intruder in the dorm. According to a Public Safety Bulletin issued to students last night, a female resident had just returned to her room after leaving for a brief amount of time when she discovered a man emerging from the closet.
A report released by the Swarthmore Police further states that the intruder urged the victim to be quiet. When the victim pushed the intruder and began screaming, “the male then displayed a black handgun and exited the building. The victim tried to use her cell phone but could not find it and suspects it may have been taken by the suspect.” The victim was unharmed.
Early reports describe the suspect as “a black male in his early thirties, height approximately 5 feet 9 inches, medium to stocky build, clean-shaven and with short-cropped hair.”
Following the incident, Swarthmore Police and Public Safety combed the area and were unable to find the described suspect. Local police departments have also been similarly unsuccessful. There are, as yet, no clues as to whether the incident is linked to attacks on campus and the surrounding areas last month.
Several residents in Willets reported seeing the intruder wandering the halls and lounge spaces earlier that evening, around 5 PM. According to one witness, a male matching the description opened her room door while she was napping inside. Upon realizing that the resident was in the room, he asked the witness a question and promptly left. The man was clearly older and not a student, according to the witness. Other Willets residents report seeing the same man walking the halls on the 1st and 2nd floors.
While the incident was successfully reported to the campus through several emails and the recently-implemented emergency text-messaging system, many students were alarmed by the delay of the report, which came about an hour after the event.
Sophomore Amy Smolek ’11 was on her way to PPR when she received the text, “I don’t think it came soon enough, though I didn’t realize that at the time. We should have been alerted immediately.” Casey Osborne ’10 thinks otherwise, “as an alert, I think a half-hour after the event is a pretty efficient deployment. The system isn’t meant to help Public Safety catch the intruder.”
Zoe Lewicki ’11, a Willets resident, received an email from her RA before the text. “I felt adequately informed, although I was not in Willets at the time, so I didn’t feel anxious about my safety…I might have wanted more information from the college about what had happened in Willets.”
As for whether students have changed personal habits as result of last night’s incident, Osborn ‘10 says she isn’t sure what to do. “I live off-campus, and I decided to walk on the Swarthmore streets instead of through a dark short-cut on-campus, but I don’t know if that was even a smart safety precaution.”
Lewicki ’11 decided against walking campus alone after receiving the message. “I still feel generally safe, but will take precautions about walking alone and locking my doors.”
For now, Public Safety advises students to do just that: lock dorm and room doors and avoid travelling campus alone. Any further information regarding the intruder or other reports suspicious persons or vehicles on campus should be relayed to Public Safety by calling 610-328-8281.