As Hurricane Irene slammed campus early Sunday, three male students’ efforts to evade Department of Public Safety officers ended in $1,500 worth of damages to offices on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center and the university pressing criminal charges.
On Sunday morning around 1:13 a.m., the suspects were checking out the university report regarding the dangerous conditions of the loosened shingles on the New Science Center. While on the Leavey Esplanade, the students were told by DPS officers to leave the area, as university officials were worried the heavy metal shingles could become dangerous projectiles, according to DPS Associate Director Joseph Smith.
Instead of following the officers’ orders, the three students — two of whom are current staffers of the student media outlet The Voice — fled to The Voice’s office on the fourth floor of Leavey with the officers in pursuit, according to Smith. The three locked the door of the office and then decided to avoid capture by breaking through the drop ceiling panels and crawling into the adjacent offices, Smith said.
The suspects, while fleeing through the ceilings of the offices of The Hoya, the Debate Team and Director of Residential Ministry Michelle Siemietkowski, destroyed several ceiling panels and damaged the structural support system in the ceilings.
Smith said that the students could be heard climbing through the ceiling as one of the officers went to retrieve keys to the office. It ultimately became only a matter of time before they surrendered, according to Smith.
“There really was no way to get out,” he said.
“The students refused to comply with repeated, reasonable requests from uniformed Department of Public Safety officers,” Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said. “This required critical resources be diverted during the university’s emergency response to Hurricane Irene.”
Two of the students turned themselves in after the destruction, but one of the suspects exited through a fourth-floor window and was found on the outcropping overhang connected to the second floor. That suspect sustained serious injuries after dropping two stories and is currently recovering at the Georgetown University Hospital.
The remaining suspects were taken into police custody, and the Metropolitan Police Department has charged all three suspects with destruction of property. This offense can carry fines of up to $5,000 and/or jail time of up to 10 years.
The Student Code of Conduct categorizes such an offense as a Class B violation, which can result in moderate to serious level violations.
First-time violations of the code include sanctions ranging from housing relocation, housing probation, apartment living suspension or housing suspension to possible disciplinary probation or disciplinary suspension for up to two years.
“Category B violations may result in the most severe sanctions when warranted by the nature of the violation or the student’s prior record,” the code states.
Smith expressed his regret that the students did not initially heed the DPS officers’ warnings, stating that the entire event could have been avoided.
“Our interest is to protect university safety,” he said. “We want to be here to protect them. We are here to help.”