Nathan Poffenbarger ’08 is in custody at Tompkins County Jail after allegedly stabbing a visiting student on West Campus during an altercation that occurred shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday.
According to sources familiar with the incident, Poffenbarger and an unidentified female were walking in the vicinity of Baker Tower, on the corner of University and West, after Poffenbarger was reportedly kicked out of a West Campus fraternity party for belligerent behavior and use of racial slurs.
University officials said Poffenbarger continued using the epithets after leaving the fraternity and was overheard by a nearby group of three black Union College students, who then confronted Poffenbarger. A verbal altercation escalated, and Poffenbarger allegedly stabbed one of the students.
Poffenbarger fled after an Ithaca Police vehicle arrived on the scene. He turned himself in to authorities Saturday night.
The stab victim, Union senior Charles Holiday of Brooklyn, was taken to the trauma unit at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, where he was treated for a wound below his right shoulder that had punctured one of his lungs. Holiday’s condition has since been upgraded from critical to stable.
Poffenbarger is set to be arraigned at Tompkins County Courthouse tomorrow at 10 a.m. for second-degree assault, a class “D” felony. According to Capt. Kathy Zoner of the Cornell Police Department, that status could be elevated to class “C” under hate-crime statutes if racial motivations are proven.
The investigation will be conducted by Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson.
Poffenbarger’s bail has been set at $20,000 cash and $40,000 bond. The Sun was unable to contact Poffenbarger’s attorney for comment.
Dozens of Baker residents were awake in their rooms at the time of the stabbing.
“I heard screaming outside, and about fifteen minutes later a friend of mine came running down the hall and told us that something terrible had happened outside,” said Baker Tower resident Emily Schneider ’08. “We went to her room and looked out the window, and there were a bunch of people outside. One of the black students was being put on a stretcher. The police were cordoning off the area and telling people to get back. There was blood everywhere.”
“I was in my room [in South Baker] when it happened,” said Wayne Huang ’07. “I heard yelling outside my window, but it didn’t occur to me at the time to look out. It just sounded like some drunk students on a Friday night – I didn’t hear any screams of pain or anything.”
Huang, the former editor-in-chief of Turn Left, was shocked to learn that he knew the assailant, who had contributed regularly to Turn Left since transferring from a Maryland college in the fall.
“He had written a lot of good news pieces for us,” said staff member Josh Perlman ’07. “I had spoken to him earlier that day about a new article he was going to be doing. He didn’t seem weird or anything when I spoke to him, just enthusiastic to be writing as he usually was. I was extremely shocked to hear about all this. This seems really out of character.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Cornell University Police at (607) 255-1111 or the Ithaca Police Department at (607) 272-9973.
Archived article by Ben Birnbaum
Sun Staff Writer