Nacogdoches, TX – Police at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) have been under fire after it was reported that officers raided a black female student’s dorm room for no reason, but university officials said Wednesday that what happened was a result of “swatting.”
Officials also said they found no evidence that the move was racially-charged because half of the students involved in the mayhem were black, KHOU reported.
The incident occurred on Sept. 14 when officers responded to a 911 call from a students’ community assistant who told the dispatcher that freshman Christin Evans had threatened to “shank” another student with scissors.
The community assistant told the dispatcher that the threat had caused another student to have a “manic” episode, KHOU reported.
Officers responded to the dormitory initially to assist the student suffering the manic episode, but the community assistant redirected them to Evans room at the behest of the girl’s roommates.
SFA Police Chief John Fields said the officers knocked on Evans door four time and got no response, but they eventually made entry to her room after her suitemates let the officers cut through their shared bathroom, KHOU reported.
Evans has complained that officers entered her room with their weapons drawn.
But Chief Fields said only one officer had his pistol out of his holster, and that was because he was using the flashlight mounted on the weapon to see in the dark room, KHOU reported.
“At no time was he intentionally trying to point at the subject,” the police chief said.
He said a second officer had his Taser drawn when they entered the room but re-holstered it as soon as they saw Evans was sleeping, KHOU reported.
Chief Evans said his officers were professional with the student and asked her to come out into the hall to talk to them.
The chief said the entire exchange was captured on bodycam and that he has requested Evans’ parents’ permission to release the footage, KHOU reported.
“Once that is released, everyone will see exactly what happened,” he told reporters. “At no time did we go in like it was the wild, wild West like it’s been presented in the media and some of the other social media posts.”
Police investigated and determined that the 911 call made about Evans had been a malicious attempt to harass the young woman by a group of roommates and other women in her dorm, KHOU reported.
SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon described the circumstances of the “swatting” incident as a “complex dynamic” that was still being investigated.
Initial reports about the incident claimed Evans had been racially-profiled by police and created a firestorm of anti-police sentiment on social media.
But Chief Fields said the investigation had determined the “swatting” was not racially-motivated, KHOU reported.
“I can assure you it’s not racial, it’s far from that,” the chief said. “The investigation evidence has identified the core group that Dr. Gordon mentioned, three black females and three white Caucasian females. All students appear to be willing associates up until that incident.”
The university president said there were nearly a dozen female students – black, white, and Hispanic – who participated in setting Evans up and said “those who were involved will be held accountable,” KHOU reported.
“My heart goes out to the innocent young lady, the victim, in this case,” Gordon told reporters. “This is a case of false reporting. She has our full support. Her family has our full support, and we will work closely with them so she can continue on her pathway to success.”
School officials said part of the evidence that has been collected came from social media, according to KHOU.
Chief Field said that evidence will be turned over to the district attorney’s office for consideration of charges.
The university has also said the matter will be handled administratively as a “student rights” case, KHOU reported.
Gordon expressed further concern about the way the university had handled the incident in a written statement released after the press conference.
“During the past two days, I have received briefings on the details of the case involving the false reporting incident that occurred on September 14,” the university president said in the statement. “As a result of these briefings, I have become very concerned about some irregularities in this case, specifically the amount of time it took for this case to be turned over to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the fact that I learned of this case from the victim’s mother many days after the incident.”
“The delay in reporting this case to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities was unacceptable and will be addressed,” he continued, according to KHOU. “I will engage an outside, independent investigator to conduct a review of the Division of University Affairs. This will include the policies, procedures, practices and reporting structure within housing, student affairs and student conduct.”
Gordon promised to closely review the report on what happened and figure out how to make sure the same problem didn’t happen again.