Amid the excitement of Beer Bike morning, multiple student sightings of three suspicious men went unaddressed in a series of miscommunications between Rice University Police Department and concerned callers. The men, who were first seen at Martel College around 6 a.m., claimed to be a Rice alumnus and two University of Houston students. Despite several calls to RUPD from college presidents, chief justices and college masters, the men were not asked to leave by RUPD until close to 9 a.m., according to McMurtry Beer Bike coordinator Jessica Kelly.
“It ended with the Brown masters calling RUPD,” Kelly, a senior, said. “But multiple CJs called, multiple college presidents, multiple coordinators. From what we see conversing with each other, it didn’t seem like RUPD had any other pressing issues to be dealing with.”
RUPD Police Chief Johnny Whitehead said an administrative review is underway to examine the slow response, as well as a criminal investigation into the incident.
“One thing we did learn is, listening to calls and radio transmissions, it turns out the officer that responded wasn’t aware of the information from the college presidents,” Whitehead said. “It wasn’t until the officers interviewed the guys that we learned they had gone in and out of multiple buildings.”
Whitehead also said the majority of RUPD’s security personnel were scheduled to work after the incident occurred.
“Unfortunately, [the incident] happened even before the balloon fight, even before officers or security specialists were deployed,” Whitehead said.
According to Lovett College President Rahul Kothari, several students at different colleges called RUPD in regards to three males exhibiting predatory behavior.
“In the process of making these calls, there was a great deal of miscommunication between college leadership and RUPD that led to delayed response times,” Kothari, a junior, said.
Kelly said the trespassers were present at McMurtry around 7:30 a.m. Following reports from students that the men were making them feel uncomfortable, a McMurtry student called RUPD three times around 8 a.m., but an officer was not sent immediately. The student did not wish to be identified.
“[The student] said the Lovett CJ had requested an officer an hour ago at that point and no one had come yet, so [the student] was on the phone trying to get in touch with an RUPD officer,” Kelly said. “The first two times, they said we’ve got someone on it. They were being generally flippant. At 8:22 when [the student] called again, they said they sent someone over. [The student] was waiting out for 20 minutes.”
While the calls were being placed, McMurtry Chief Justice Albert Nabiullin said he recognized the trespassers in the quad based on a picture sent on the chief justices’ group chat and asked them to leave for their inappropriate behavior. According to Nabiullin, a sophomore, the men were holding Brown College’s caregiving shirts when he approached them.
“When I questioned them about the shirts, they stated that the shirts did not belong to them and did not know how they got there,” Nabiullin said.
Even before the attempts at Lovett and McMurtry to contact RUPD, the men were asked to leave both Martel and Brown earlier that morning. Brown head caregiver Hannah Park said she suspects they got the shirts from Brown at this time.
“We had a caregiving station on first floor where the box of shirts were for the caregivers on shift for Beer Bike, and they must have gotten them in between shifts when no one was paying any attention,” Park, a sophomore, said.
However, the details of the incident and the trespassers’ activities throughout the morning remain hazy. While the college presidents are not providing specific comments regarding the trespassers at the moment, they will meet with Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson and Whitehead next week to address the issue, according to Martel President Ly Nguyen. Kothari said the presidents will work together with Hutchinson and Whitehead to prioritize student safety.
“The presidents are working closely with the administration and Chief Whitehead to further investigate this incident and to move forward in a manner that ensures that student safety is our top priority,” Kothari said.
Until then, RUPD will proceed with the investigation, according to Whitehead. He applauded the college presidents and CJs for their vigilance.
“I still think that even what we know now and what we knew then, I wish we had done more to support them,” Whitehead said. “That’s why we’re continuing to look into it.”
Jessica Kelly is the Thresher assistant photo editor.