Quelling Comments -- Not Crime?
An honors freshman living at Texas Southern University's Tierwester Oaks Apartments says she broke the code of silence about safety problems and suffered the consequences -- from TSU police.
The incident has caused some TSU students and faculty members to question whether the priorities of the university are on preventing crime, or merely minimizing coverage of continuing safety problems.
On the day of the memorial for slain sophomore Ashley Sloan in December, Leslie Williams says, she was returning to her residence at Tierwester Oaks when an intoxicated man at the complex started bragging that he'd killed Sloan. According to Williams, the man said he had retrieved the bullet from the dead woman's head, and then produced a bullet from his pocket to try to back up his claims.
"He came in right after us," Williams recalls. "He was smoking something. He smelled like alcohol. He had a bottle in his pocket...His clothes were ripped off of him and he had all these tattoos and stuff. They just let him in."
Williams asked the officer guarding the gate why she hadn't been more vigilant. The student says she called TSU police and they searched the complex but couldn't find the man.
Still appalled at the security breach, Williams recounted the incident to television reporters who had been covering Sloan's memorial.
The freshman says that about five TSU officers showed up later at the complex -- this time looking for her, not a suspect in the Sloan case. She says they came to her apartment to try to muzzle her remarks to the media.
"If you don't...tell us what you told them, we're going to take you to jail," Williams remembers them saying.
A few days later, Williams was driving through the Tierwester Oaks gates when TSU officer LaSonya King asked her to show her student ID, which was a standard request in the aftermath of Sloan's death. Williams says she produced a U.S. passport because her university ID recently had been stolen. When King threw the passport back in the car window, Williams called her mother, the student says.
Then, Williams says, King "reaches in the window, snatches my phone from me, unlocks the door, grabs me by the arm, drags me out of the car, throws me on the concrete, handcuffs me and tells me that I'm about to go to jail for trespassing."
According to Williams, one of her friends called Houston police, who released Williams from King's custody. The cops drove her to the student dean's office to file a complaint, she says.
When Williams went to the dean's office to file the report, TSU officer King followed and arrested her again, this time for evading detention. She was booked and held in county jail until three the next morning. Her attorney, Kurt Agomou, believes the charge was filed in retaliation for her speaking to the media.
Another protest of that arrest came from Daniel Adams, a TSU music professor who chairs the faculty senate and sits on the school's disciplinary committee.
He e-mailed other faculty members to question why an understaffed police force devoted so much time to arresting Williams -- and why her treatment was harsher than that received by students who had actually perpetrated crimes.
"If students, 'the customers,' can be treated like this, it is only a matter of time before faculty are arrested on trumped-up charges," he wrote.
The message also referred to a case in which the disciplinary committee had recommended the expulsion of a female student accused of brandishing a gun at a campus housing facility. Adams wrote that a TSU police officer wanted leniency for the student because she might tip them about "the massive cache of guns allegedly possessed by TSU students."
TSU Police Chief James Young told him that the student with the gun would still be allowed to attend classes, Adams said in the e-mail. "Why was she in school when Ms. Williams was in jail?" -- Mosi Secret
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.