By Lori Wysong
Over the course of last week, Washington College students received several emails updating them on the investigation of multiple violent incidents allegedly involving students.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, President Kurt Landgraf met with Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm, Director of the Department of Public Safety Brandon McFayden, Chestertown Police Chief Adrian Baker, and Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino to discuss the incidents.
“Our Public Safety officers are excellent, but they’re limited, and the Chestertown Police really wants to help us, but we all have to work together. What happened this weekend is just not acceptable. No one involved thinks it is,” President Landgraf said.
Students were informed of the incidents on Sunday, Sept. 2, when McFayden sent an email describing the events that occurred.
One alleged incident from last weekend occurred when a female WC student was approached by a man described as driving a red car with tinted windows, and being “35-45 years old, having a muscular build, very dark skin, and being clean shaven, with bald head, wearing a bright red polo type shirt and black exercise shorts,” according to McFayden.
While it is under investigation, Lt. John Dolgos of the Chestertown Police Department (CPD)said, “That incident at this time is not criminal. It was a suspicious situation, but there was nothing criminally done, so we’re basically being on the lookout for a vehicle matching that description, so we can find out who the owner of the vehicle is.”
The CPD is trying to get in contact with the driver of the vehicle, so Dolgos asks anyone that finds themselves in a similar scenario, or sees the car in question, to call 911 immediately.
The other incidents in the email, according to Dolgos, are criminal offenses which will be considered as second or even first-degree assault.
The first alleged incident reported occurred on Saturday, Sept. 1, when two WC students were punched and kicked by a group of juveniles at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Brown Street.
Dolgos believes that this incident may not have been a random act of violence and was possibly related to events that transpired at a party that took place a few blocks away.
“But we don’t know for sure,” he said.
“There was another assault reported late Sunday. It actually occurred Saturday night with the same type of scenario — group of juveniles. It was a minor assault that occurred on High Street That victim didn’t want to pursue anything,” Dolgos said.
Dolgos said, “If something does occur, call right then and there, and don’t hesitate to call, because we can get a lot more done when it happened if we start investigating right then.”
Mayor Cerino said, “While I can’t comment on the ongoing investigation, I can say that our police department believes that two of these incidents may be related. Our officers are obviously working very hard to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice so that these individuals won’t commit crimes of this nature in the future.”
Dolgos said, “I want people to know that the town’s safe, it’s just one of those weird situations we had.”
Cerino, Landgraf, and McFayden agree that this amount of crime involving students is unusual at WC.
McFayden believes that “The incidents that happened over Labor Day weekend appeared to be a lot, in part because of two incidents that were later discovered not to have occurred.”
The two incidents McFayden referred to, an alleged kidnapping and an alleged mugging, were supposed to have taken place in Chestertown last week.
The kidnapping, which allegedly took place on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 3, on the Chester River Bridge, fell under the jurisdiction of the Maryland State Police (MSP). After some investigation, Sgt. Curley of the MSP said, “It was an elderly woman who picked up a gentleman, and, I believe, a child, and gave them a ride home because they were walking in the heat.”
The other alleged crimes fell under the jurisdiction of the CPD.
Dolgos said that, on Sept. 4, “We got a report of a possible attempted armed robbery on the trail near the College. After investigating that, we found that that did not occur. That incident did not occur at all.”
In light of recent events, Dolgos, McFayden, Landgraf, and Cerino all encourage students to walk in groups whenever possible, and to stay in well-lit areas.
According to McFayden, Public Safety has been working for the past two months to get the blue light towers on campus repaired, so that students can use them to contact Public Safety.
Once the new parts arrive, McFayden said he is “hopeful that they will be able to get everything functioning in the very near future.”
McFayden, who worked as a police detective for 24 years in Anne Arundel County, has taken extra measures to prevent future crimes from occurring.
In addition to an extra public safety officer who has been scheduled on weekend nights, McFayden himself was patrolling campus until 2:30 a.m. last weekend. He said that the CPD has increased patrols throughout the community as well.
McFayden said, “I would like to remind everyone to utilize Safe Ride whenever possible when traveling off campus, especially at night.”
SafeRide operates from 8:00 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, Thursday from 8:00 p.m. to 2:15 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. The number for SafeRide is 410-810-RIDE (7433). Students can also call Public Safety for an escort back to their dorms. The number for Public Safety is 410-778-7810
“We’re taking it very, very seriously and getting a lot of input from parents who are concerned and students who are concerned, and I can tell you my concern is very high,” Landgraf said.
Editor-in-Chief Abby Wargo contributed to this article.