In April, Jevon Mallory, an eighteen-year-old St. Louis Community College-Meramec student was charged in the violent and random attack on a female student inside a campus bathroom. The assault itself was horrific, but in the weeks following the attack, campus leaders and police faced intense scrutiny for their handling of this situation -- notably for releasing the assailant shortly after apprehending him, allowing him to return to campus days later.
Yesterday, the college's board of trustees released a scathing sixteen-page report from an outside law firm with the findings of an investigation into the incident and the college's response. On view below, the report, which offers a detailed timeline of events, says the college mischaracterized and mishandled the assault due to "a system-wide failure of campus and district law-enforcement, administration and communications, which resulted in an unnecessary threat to the campus from an individual who should have remained in custody rather than being allowed to roam free after the commission of a major felony."
An "equally important cause of the mishandling of the assault was a lack in leadership and management from key personnel at the district and campus levels," the report says.
After the attack, the victim, nineteen-year-old Blythe Grupe, spoke out about her experience and her frustration with the college's response -- largely over the fact that her attacker was released and that a campus-wide alert was delayed. George Wasson, president of the Meramec campus of St. Louis Community College, resigned amid the controversy and last month, the board of trustees voted not to extend Chancellor Myrtle Dorsey, a decision apparently tied to the assault scandal, among other tensions.
The college yesterday also announced that three officials involved have been removed from their positions, though it's unclear if they've been fired or moved elsewhere in the district. Those three, who are all scrutinized at length in the report, are Meramec Campus Police Chief Paul Banta, Community College District Chief of Police Robert Stewart and Vice President of Student Affairs Linden Crawford.*
The board asked investigators to look into six areas of concern: The facts and timeline of the assault and response; the assailant's history of problems at STLCC; why police released him shortly after he was apprehended; how he came back to campus five days later; why the notice to campus of the assault was delayed; and finally, when responsible parties within STLCC knew about the assault and what they did with that information.
The report, conducted by the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale LLP, is the result of analyzing thousands of emails, reports and other documents along with materials from the Meramec Campus Police department and cell phone and office telephone records of various officials, the college says. The investigators also interviewed 25 witnesses and consulted with a retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department detective.
The whole report is worth a read, but we've compiled some notable highlights.
Mallory, the report says, had several "prior incidents" that the college's Behavioral Intervention Team (made up of police, student affairs and other administrative reps) did not investigate or handle adequately or appropriately, the report says. The investigation revealed "procedural inadequacies in the handling of certain types of reports of student behavior," though the authors cannot offer specifics due to privacy laws.
In high school, the report notes, Mallory also allegedly attacked a teacher and was certified to be charged as an adult.
The report offers a detailed account of the physical assault, explaining that Mallory came up from behind Grupe, strangled her in a choke hold, placed his hands over her mouth and nose and talked to her in a "calm voice."
Aurora Hill, her English composition professor, apparently heard the cries and charged into the bathroom to rescue her. Further:
Blythe Grupe had red marks around her neck and a scratch on her face. She was obviously traumatized by the event, which apparently continues to the present. She refused medical attention. Grupe later gave a statement to the police in which she stated that she felt that her attacker's purpose was to kill her.
Of note in the timeline, the report says that after learning of the incident, Wasson, then president, left campus for a California conference without informing any superior of the incident.
Mallory, meanwhile, told police "he attacked Ms. Grupe to 'vent his rage.'...[and] that he 'wanted to withdraw her from life' and that when he came to the campus that morning he knew he would hurt someone."
Police, however, allegedly did not adequately convey the seriousness of these comments to proper authorities.
Continue for more findings from the report, a statement from the trustees and a copy of the full document.
Campus Chief of Police Paul Banta and District Chief of Police Robert Stewart, made many errors, according to the report, notably releasing Mallory early because they mistakenly believed that a completed police report was necessary for an "in-custody" warrant. Banta, the report says, also wrongfully portrayed the incident to prosecutors as a minor offense. Both repeatedly said Grupe suffered "no injuries," which was both "inaccurate and insensitive." They both, the report says, "lack knowledge of basic police procedures."
Several administrators also neglected to alert Dorsey, the chancellor, that the incident had even occurred, some telling investigators that there were miscommunications about who was responsible for looping her in.
A full five days after the assault -- and apparently after much internal debate -- officials finally sent out a campus-wide alert about the incident. That alert came six hours after Mallory had already returned to the scene of the assault and on the first day Grupe's class was meeting since the incident.
Dorsey and Wasson returned to St. Louis six days after the assault and no one in a position of authority at that time had talked to the parents of the victim to apologize, the report found.
Board Chair Craig Larson says in a statement provided by the college:
From the perspective of the Board of Trustees, the most disappointing aspect of this report is that so many individuals who could have made a difference throughout this terrible event simply did not act, did not seize control of a bad situation. The board feels very strongly that the college must create an environment in which administrators, faculty and staff have a clear knowledge of their personal responsibilities, of their authority to act and the understanding that they are accountable to the board, students and the community. Certainly this applies to matters relating to safety, but it really applies to everything that we do at the college.
Here's the full report, which includes a series of recommendations, such as the implementation of consistent policies, a restructuring, better training and more:
*Post has been updated to include information about the three college officials that have been removed.
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