On Monday, November 16, the Hamilton Police Department arrested Jonathan J. Sanders after investigating three break-ins at Colgate students’ off-campus apartments that occurred over the weekend. Sanders, a 20-year old man from Madison, was found playing basketball at Huntington Gymnasium at 12 p.m. on Monday when he was apprehended by Hamilton Police. Sanders was charged with burglary in the second degree and is currently being held at Madison County Jail. His bail has been set at $25,000 cash or $50,000 in bonds. Although Sanders was apprehended on campus, he is not a Colgate student or employee, and his affiliation with the school is currently unknown.
Director of Campus Safety Bill Ferguson first alerted the Colgate community of these incidents of “unwanted entry” in an e-mail on Saturday, November 14. This was the first of three e-mails Ferguson sent over the next two days. The second informed the Colgate community of a second break-in, and the third e-mail stated that three apartments had been broken into and that one student reported a sexual assault.
Two of the three incidents occurred in the same building on Lebanon Street and the third took place on Maple Avenue. The Hamilton police recorded the incidents on Lebanon Street as burglary, while the incident on Maple Avenue was listed as trespassing.
According to a November 16 e-mail sent to students from Campus Safety, all three incidents were reported by women and involved an unidentified male, who, in two of the three incidents, was found in a bedroom. When asked whether the three residences were specifically targeted, Hamilton Police Chief Gary Mlasgar stated that he believed the residences were chosen at random.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Campus Safety decided not to notify students of the incidents via the e2Campus Alert System, which allows the University to send messages to the cell phones of students who have registered for the service.
“E2Campus is for situations that pose a threat to the community where we need community members to take some immediate action,” Ferguson said, explaining that since the incidents had already occurred, the decision was made to alert the student body via email.
The e-mails sent out to the student body regarding the incidents also urged students to “practice good personal safety measures,” and although the break-ins took place at off-campus residences all students were reminded to keep their doors closed and locked. Campus Safety also conducted additional checks of the exterior doors of residence halls to ensure that they were locked and closed. Seniors who live off-campus also took precautionary measures to ensure their safety.
“I hadn’t really considered the safety implications of living off-campus until this past weekend,” senior Abby Bowers said. “After the break-ins started occurring, my roommate and I became much more vigilant with always locking the doors. With all the rumors floating around campus, it’s hard to know what to believe but some extra safety precautions are never a bad thing. It’s not that I feel unsafe now, just more aware.”
On Monday evening, rumors swirling around campus reached a peak. That evening, several mass e-mails were sent out that claimed that another assault had occurred, this time in the woods behind the Townhouses. Word of the alleged assault spread quickly across campus.
“When I was out, a lot of people were getting text messages telling them that there was another incident behind the townhouses and to get home safely,” senior Mindy Goldenberg said. “People were saying that there was another incident, another sexual assault. Some people were saying that someone got raped behind the Townhouses, but other people said there wasn’t a rape. . . No one really knew what happened, but everyone expressed a lot of concern for each other and was making sure that all of the women went home together either on a specific cruiser or getting rides.”
In response to these widespread rumors, an e-mail was sent out by Campus Safety at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday morning that stated that the incident had been investigated in conjunction with the Hamilton Police Department and Madison County Sheriff and no assault had occurred, as confirmed by the student involved, nor was her personal safety endangered. That e-mail came nearly five hours after the alleged incident had occurred.
On Tuesday, Campus Safety sent out another e-mail, notifying the student body that the Hamilton Police Department had arrested a suspect in connection with the incidents of the past weekend. At present, Sanders is facing burglary in the second degree, which is a Class C felony in the state of New York. According to New York State Penal Code §140.25, a person is guilty of burglary in the second degree when they “knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein.”
While Ferguson informed the student body that a sexual assault had been reported, the Hamilton Police Department could not confirm that a sexual assault occurred. Sexual assault charges have not been filed in relation to the break-ins.
“We still have open cases, and it is an ongoing investigation,” Mlasgar said.
Mlasgar also wanted to reassure Colgate students that the immediate threat had passed.
“We do feel that the individual we have was responsible for all the incidents on Saturday and Sunday,” Mlasgar said. “And I can tell you that more charges are pending.”
Mlasgar credited Colgate students, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police for bringing this incident to a speedy resolution. Police conducted field interviews all weekend, asking students to report any suspicious activity, and Mlasgar was impressed by students’ cooperativeness and willingness to help.
“I cannot thank the students enough,” Mlasgar said.