Two women have reported being attacked on the University of Hawaii Hilo campus recently.
A 19-year-old sophomore majoring in marine science told Big Island Chronicle she was attacked around 4:45 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the bathroom of the UH Hilo Geology Building. And there is word of another attack that has occurred, but not necessarily reported.
Jerry Chang, a former state representative who is now the University Relations director, said Hawaii County police are investigating Tuesday’s alleged attack. He emphasized the word alleged and claimed there was another attack last Thursday in the same location involving the same victim, which wasn’t reported.
The victim in Tuesday’s attack, however, disputed Chang’s claim, saying she was not attacked last Thursday. Chang, reached again, said that is not the information University Relations received. Asked if there were any other attacks this semester at UH Hilo, Chang said no.
Meanwhile, Campus Security logs indicate that there was an attack against a woman in October in the dorms.
As for Tuesday’s attack, the victim described the alleged perpetrator as a Caucasian who is approximately six feet tall with a lanky build, with curly, dirty blonde hair. Having an apparent “surfer type” look, she said the alleged perpetrator wore a white tank top, surf shorts and Vans or a similar brand closed-toe pair of shoes. He fled the area in a red Ford Expedition, possibly a 2006 model.
The victim said she had finished work in the area around 4:30 p.m., but then sought out the nearest bathroom, which happened to be in the Geology Building. As she made her way to the restroom, she passed a guy on a bench. She had ear phones on but had a brief exchange with him. He greeted her, she greeted him back, and then he said, “Have a good day.”
She used the bathroom and, as she was washing her hands, she heard the door open, and the next thing she knew the guy she had passed by on the bench was rushing her. He grabbed her neck and shoved her against the wall, holding the knife on the right side of her neck. She said the alleged perpetrator was left handed. The knife appeared to be a “switch blade,” with a wooden handle.
“If you scream, I’ll kill you,” the victim said the alleged perpetrator told her. He then set down his knife and started undressing her. He got her sweater off, and then fumbled to figure out how to take off her dress. In the moment that he fumbled, the victim punched the alleged perpetrator in the face, she recalled. “He freaked out ran.” The victim ran after him and saw him drive away in the Expedition.
Within moments of coming out of the Geology Building bathroom and seeing the alleged perpetrator flee in the vehicle, the victim encountered a UH Hilo security guard. She was frantic, but managed to articulate what happened. “Let’s take a walk,” the security guard told her. He walked her to her dormitory. The victim went into her dorm room, and was alone in her room emotionally reacting to what had just happened to her when her mother called. She told her mother what had happened, and her mother helped her get the police involved.
She is speaking to the media now, hoping to alert other students. She noted that it took two days for UH Hilo administrators to send an official alert via email to students.
Chang says that UH Hilo administrators are sending a memo to all students and going to be more diligent about increasing patrol. He noted that campus security guards offer escorts between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. seven days a week. UH Hilo administrators are also planning a student forum at 7 p.m. Monday at a location to be announced, in order to offer safety tips and answer students’ questions.
The victim feels “agitated” that University Relations staff think she was the victim in another attack and generally don’t seem to have all the facts. She is also concerned about how Campus Security handled her attack. But she feels really confident the local police are doing all they can to help solve the crime.
“I feel like they’ve got my back, and they are doing what they can to search for this guy,” the victim said.
Tomorrow the victim will meet with a police artist to get a sketch of the alleged perpetrator, she said.
She also learned that, at approximately 6 p.m., police stopped an SUV matching the description she gave them, and questioned the driver.
The Geology Building is apparently the only building without surveillance on campus. The victim believes that the university administration should ensure that there is surveillance in and around every building at UH Hilo, along with increasing security and ensuring that security guards are aware of protocol for reporting crimes.
If you can help police solve this crime, immediately call 935-3311.