Investigation Finds No Evidence of Assault in Strebel

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Photo by Samuel Northrup.

Samuel Northrup, Editor-In-Chief

The independent investigation by Utica College Professor Bernard Hyman, a former assistant district attorney for Oneida County, into whether or not excessive force was used by a Campus Safety officer against a student during an emergency situation has concluded.

Nearly three weeks after the incident, the final report from Hyman’s investigation has concluded that the Campus Safety officer was “justified” in his use of force to prevent a student from obstructing EMTs trying to provide medical care to another student.

The report, widely distributed to the Utica College community on Wednesday, recommends that the officer in question be allowed to return to work after having been placed on administrative leave.

“I handled it (the investigation) with the same integrity I have handled anything in my 22 years as a lawyer,” Hyman said. “Being able to look at things objectively, weigh them out and reserve decision until you’ve heard all the evidence, that’s what I did here.”

President Laura Casamento, speaking to The Tangerine just prior to the report being fully released to the campus, said that the administration accepts the results of Hyman’s investigation. She also recognized that not every party involved will be satisfied with its outcome.

“This is a no-win situation — no matter which way this turned out, someone was going to be unhappy,” she said. “I knew that, regardless of whichever side was going be unhappy, that professor Hyman was going to find out the facts.”

Before college officials first addressed the issue with the student body on March 4, a video posted immediately following the incident by a student-run social media account appeared to show a female student being restrained, causing some students to believe Campus Safety officers’ use of force was racially motivated. However, no video was posted showing the events leading up to the scene captured in the social media post.

Hyman’s report — factoring in surveillance video from cameras inside Strebel as well as statements from students, Campus Safety officers, UC Emergency Medical Services (UCEMS) and EMT workers from Kunkel Ambulance — offers a complete timeline of events.

The names of the students, Campus Safety officers and emergency service workers referenced in the report were replaced pseudonyms in order to protect individuals’ privacy. For reference,  CampusSafety1 is the Campus Safety officer of interest, UCStudent1 is the student he confronted, Patient1 is the student who required medical care and EMT Kunkel1 is an emergency worker who was providing direct medical treatment.

According to the report:

  • Campus Safety officers assigned to patrol a party held in Strebel on the night of March 1 observed Patient1 lying unresponsive on the floor after vomiting.
  • UCEMS, followed by EMTs from Kunkin Ambulance, responded to the scene and began rendering care to Patient1.
  • Despite numerous attempts by Campus Safety to disburse student onlookers, Student1, who “argued that she wanted to take Patient1 back to the room (her dorm) and let her sleep it off,” refused to let EMTs provide medical care to Patient1.
  • During this interaction, UCStudent1 was observed pulling Patient1 backwards to prevent EMT Kunkel1 from administering an IV.
  • After EMT Kunkel1 told Campus Safety officers, “She (Student1) has to move,” CampusSafety1 placed his hand under the arm of Student1 and told her she had to move away from Patient1.
  • CampusSafety1 then placed his hand on the left wrist of UCStudent1 and moved her away from Patient1.
  • UCStudent1 proceeded to “throw a punch” at CampusSafety1 with her right hand and was then walked away by three bystanders.
  • UCStudent1 then lunged at CampusSafety1, who then caught the wrist of her right hand, released her arm then walked away.
  • In the report, EMT Kunkel1 described the situation in Strebel when she arrived as follows: “Students were trying to force their way back through and about 8 or more students began to yell, scream, push past and argue with security at the elevator [in Strebel] stating that they were not leaving the area. The patient required immediate medical attention which was being hindered by the chaos and unsafe situation that was being caused by the growing number of students.”

“I don’t think that any racial bias played a part in this,” Hyman said. “It should be noted that the reporting of the incident on Instagram and social media all dealt with what happened [after UCStudent1 and CampusSafety1 made contact]; the video I viewed was of the actual incident, not the aftermath.”

With all these details in mind, Hyman concluded that CampusSafety1 acted within the guidelines set by the Campus Safety Handbook for using force, which is based on Article 35 of the New York State Penal Law. Article 35 provides instances where the use of physical force by officers is justified.

The report also recommends the students involved in the incident, specifically UCStudent1, be referred to the Office of Student Success and Community Standards in order to determine whether their actions violated the Student Code of Conduct.

“To that end, this writer concludes that CampusSafety1 was justified in his initial use of force as the use of force was necessary in order to allow the EMTs to render necessary medical care to Patient1,” Hyman wrote.

The college administration, Casamento explained, will now work on following the recommendations laid out in Hyman’s report, which includes working with students on how to react and conduct themselves in a situation when emergency medical care is required.

Casamento also said that more needs to be done to “create relationships between students and Campus Safety and get those groups together on a regular basis.”

“I’m going to talk to students to see how we move forward and mend the relationship between students and Campus Safety because I know that there are students who are apprehensive about having events [when officers are on patrol],” she said. “I think we need to talk about that as a community and how we are going to move forward.”


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