'Suspicious person' approaches girls in Vander Poel bathroom
Image courtesy of Public Safety// The surveillance image was sent to Hofstra students’ emails identifying the man who approached students in the women’s restroom.
At approximately 10 a.m. on Friday, May 3, Public Safety officers responded to a report of an unknown male making suggestive comments to female students in the fourth-floor women’s restroom of Vander Poel Hall. The two students were physically unharmed and called Public Safety after fleeing the bathroom to their dormitory, which is next to the restroom on that floor.
According to a statement from the University, “video from Vander Poel showed that the individual entered the building through the exit door shortly after a student was leaving the building. Public Safety responded immediately and conducted a thorough search of the of the building.”
Public Safety sent out text messages asking students to “check their Hofstra email for information on a suspicious person seen on campus” at 5:24 p.m., and an email with the photo was sent to students’ Hofstra emails at 5:28 p.m. that evening. At 5:51 p.m., another text message was sent stating, “The suspicious person was seen earlier and is no longer on campus,” and urging to call with any additional information.
Melissa Medina, a sophomore athletic training major, was in the bathroom stall at the time of the incident when she noticed a pair of boots facing in the opposite direction. “I assumed that he must have been confused and [entered] the wrong bathroom.”
When Medina left the stall to wash her hands, the man followed her to the sink. “The first thing I noticed was how tall he was – he must have been at least 6’3 and he was built like a big football player,” she said. “He came over to the sink and started talking to [my roommate and I], saying, ‘Such beautiful ladies,’ and, ‘You two are such pretty girls.’”
The other woman, a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous, was about to take a shower and entered the bathroom in a robe when Medina was washing her hands. She went into the stall to wait until the man left, but after a few minutes she heard him going through the items in her shower caddy. “I left the stall and planned to go and wash my hands, collect my things and go back into my room,” she said. “When I was washing my hands, he said, ‘You’re just so beautiful,’” and proceeded to ask her if she “wanted to do things.” When she declined and said that she had a boyfriend, “he screamed something explicit, implying that he would be willing to perform oral sex on me,” to which she said no again, and he left the restroom.
Medina returned to the bathroom where she found her as the stranger was exiting the bathroom. “She was standing up against the wall and looked absolutely terrified,” Medina said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘This man is so big, there’s no possible way I could take him if he tried something.’”
Both women returned to their room and proceeded to call Public Safety at 10:16 a.m.. She anonymously said they responded in “between five to eight minutes. I told them they had never heard him leave the floor, and it sounded like he entered one of the rooms.” The officers proceeded to knock on the doors on the floor while the women filled out the incident reports.
Fifth floor resident of Vander Poel Jakes Gamache, a freshman business economics major, saw the man as he was exiting the elevator to go to class. “I looked up to see a large, bearded man that I did not recognize, [but] I couldn’t rule him out as a resident.”
The women spoke to Public Safety and Title IX officers in order to file the report and receive further assistance with the matter. They were informed that they have the right to also report the incident to local law enforcement.
“We have a lot of progress to make with security,” said Lexi Marking, a junior global studies and political science major, who lives on the 12th floor of Vander Poel and was in her room throughout the timeframe of the incident. “For the past two years, I’ve always felt secure in my dorm. My door was open – had he come up the elevator a few more floors, he could have waltzed into my room.”
“I can’t imagine being put into the position that the other women were. I hope Hofstra quickly figures out how this happened and remedies the issue,” Marking said. “But I also know that so many women are never going to feel quite as safe again.”
Nassau County Police are assisting with the investigation, according to University Relations. Students with any information are encouraged to contact Public Safety at 516-463-6606.