February 20, 2006

Police Arrest C.U. Sophomore for Stabbing

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Students, faculty and Ithacans met at the Africana Studies and Research Center yesterday afternoon to learn more about the stabbing on West Campus and to confront issues that have arisen since Saturday.

“[The stabbing] is certainly a horrific incident — a racially-motivated incident, a violent incident, a horrific crime,” said Prof. Salah Hassan, the director of the Africana Studies and Research Center.

Prominent members of the Cornell administration and the Cornell University Police Department were present to explain some of what happened and answer questions. Others came to encourage discussion.

“I am appalled, and I’m here to show support,” said Provost Biddy Martin.

Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services, gave a brief overview of the incident and repeatedly emphasized that Cornell condemns all violence and weaponry.

“An act of violence has no place on this campus,” Murphy said.

While the presenters talked mostly about campus safety, many of the members of the audience were more concerned with campus-wide issues for blacks.

People made comments and asked questions concerning the level of bail, the lack of information given by the media and Cornell about the incident, how the perpetrator was able to flee the scene of the crime when Ithaca Police were present and the amount of blood left on the ground overnight.

Tommy Bruce, vice president of University communications, said that he had provided the media with the identity of the alleged perpetrator but not the victim, so racial identities may have been unknown.

Earlier drafts of a crime alert had been written but were not released when the perpetrator was apprehended, according to Murphy. She added that she hoped to e-mail students and faculty by yesterday night about the event.

She also asked that people be patient with the police and district attorney’s office because the “investigation is still underway.”

Curtis Ostrander, chief of the Cornell Police Department and Capt. Kathy Zoner, assistant director for public safety, discussed some of the legal elements of the crime but stressed that they did not want to “jeopardize the prosecution” by revealing inappropriate details.

“We do know there is concern about a racial component … [but] the investigation is in its infancy,” Zoner said.

Ostrander and Zoner also said that more information about the crime is being solicited and encouraged anyone with information to come forward, even anonymously.

The Ithaca Police Department and the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office were not present at the meeting.

Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant J.D. ’88 was also unable to discuss the particulars of the case due to “confidential educational records” but spoke generally about J.A. procedure.

“… [In] a case with weapons, there is always a temporary suspension,” Grant said.

Temporary suspension pending a hearing on the merits prevents the student from coming onto campus except to remove items from his or her dorm and specific J.A.-related events. The person must be accompanied by a police officer, Grant said.

Toward the end of the meeting, Marcia Fort, executive director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, encouraged people to not forget about the incident as the case moves forward. According to Fort, juror pools in Tompkins County do not properly reflect the diversity of the area, creating a greater need for people to pay attention to judicial developments.

“As the case moves forward, it will be important for people to attend legal [proceedings]. … We need to bear witness to the process,” Fort said.

Not everyone present at the meeting was able to voice their opinions and concerns, but Hassan assured those assembled that they “will have other forums.”