Armed robbery, second rape raise concerns

Published 6:26 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Troy and Troy University police are working together to solve two off-campus sexual assaults and an on-campus armed robbery that occurred within the past eight days.

A male student was walking down University Avenue near the Math and Science Complex at about 1:20 a.m. Sunday when he was confronted by a man with a gun who told the student to “give me everything you’ve got,” according to University Police Chief John McCall.

The student described the robber as a black male in his early 20s wearing a black hoodie and a scarf over his face. The suspect is about 6-feet tall and weighs about 170 pounds, McCall said.

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“We do have a vehicle we are looking at, a vehicle of interest we are looking for right now,” McCall said, adding that he hoped by finding the vehicle police would gain insight into the robber’s identity.

The student said, even with the scarf over the robber’s face, he feels confident he can identify the assailant to police.


The robbery came less than seven hours after authorities learned of a second rape at Hunter’s Mountain Mobile Estates. About 6 p.m. Saturday, police responded to the Troy Regional Medical Center to investigate a sexual assault case. The victim told officers she was attacked at Hunters Mountain Mobile Estates between 7 and 8 p.m. on March 26, approximately four hours after Troy student was sexually assaulted during a in the same neighborhood.

Troy Police Chief Jimmy Ennis said he wouldn’t elaborate on why second incident wasn’t reported sooner. The second victim, a former university student, couldn’t provide much of a description of her attacker, police said. But investigators believe her assailant is the same man who sexually assaulted the student about 3:30 p.m. that day. That rape was not reported to police until after 11 p.m.  But Ennis said the young woman identified her attacker as a black man between 40 and 50 years old. She told police he was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 250 pounds. He had a low haircut and was wearing a black or dark blue shirt and loose-fitting black or blue jeans.

“We continue to receive leads and check leads,” Ennis said Monday, noting that he couldn’t be more specific about the investigation.

With two incidents involving university students and one involving a former student, the crimes are a hot topic on campus.

University senior Tiffany Lester, 22, from Glenwood, lives off campus and said she’s been extra cautious ever since a home invasion on March 5 made local headlines.

“It made me bring my mace out of my car and into my bedroom,” Lester confessed. “After the first sexual assault, though, I turned the mace on so it would be easier to use.”

Lester said she admits she’s scared and the recent crimes have affected her activities.

“It makes me not want to go to the track at night or the gym at night,” she said.

Rachel Scarbrough, 21, from Clanton, lives on campus and said her routines haven’t really changed, but so many violent crimes in a row are a little unnerving.

“I guess I’ve always been cautious,” Scarbrough said. “But this is a reminder.”

Scarbrough said when she first came to Troy, she doesn’t remember seeing much crime in the news.

“In the past year, there have been so many more incidents, it seems,” Scarbrough said.

Because of the connections to the university, and the churning rumor mill on social networking sites such as Facebook, the Troy University Student Government Association sponsored a Town Hall meeting at Sartain Hall Monday afternoon.

Dean of Student Services Herb Reeves, McCall, Ennis and Troy Police Capt. Danny Barron briefed the several hundred students present and then answered questions.

Reeves said he wanted to “alleviate some fears and dispel some rumors.”

Some of the false statements students had heard involved a sexual assault at The Grove apartment complex, that the recent assaults were gang/group related and that the women assaulted had certain similarities.

“Other than that they were female, there were no similarities,” Reeves said.

Officials pledged to look into better lighting in some areas of campus and city police vowed to address alarm problems students reported.

Reeves urged students to not walk alone at night, keep their doors locked and call police if they see anything suspicious. He also encouraged them to call University Police for an escort if they were alone and needed to go outside a building to get to their car.

Reeves also explained to students that the university is beefing up police patrols and have moved some officers who usually work inside the office out to the streets. City police will be working with campus officers to monitor areas off campus where students live. And the University Shuttle hours have been extended to include weekends.

“Call them,” Reeves said, noting the number 697-0051. “They will shuttle you all the way home.”

Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. has offered a $5,000 reward to match the City of Troy’s $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man responsible for last Monday’s sexual assaults.

Individuals with tips or information should call the Troy Police Department at 566-0500, or the Secret Witness Line at 566-5555, regarding the sexual assaults.

And anyone with information concerning the robbery should call 670-3215 during the day and 670-1999 after hours.