September 21, 2022 550 PM
ALPINE — A Sul Ross State University student has been suspended after allegedly entering multiple dorm rooms without the occupants’ consent in the early morning hours of Thursday, September 15. The student also faces an allegation of “physical contact,” per a statement from the university.
The director and chief of the university’s police department, Kent Dunegan, declined to provide further information on the incident, citing student privacy, but said that it remained under investigation and that his department was working with the district attorney’s office.
According to a statement distributed by the university on the official SRSU Facebook page, students, faculty and staff were alerted of the incident via the university’s emergency alert system; counseling has been offered to students amidst the ongoing investigation.
“We understand and acknowledge that this incident has created some alarm, but please know that the safety and wellbeing of our students is our priority,” the statement reads. “We ask for your patience as we work through our process in accordance with the law.”
As of press time, no criminal charges have been filed against the accused student, a university spokesperson confirmed.
“This is an ongoing investigation. The University Department of Public Safety responded immediately and notified the campus community. The student has been disciplined and was suspended last week. The safety and well-being of our students is our primary concern,” said the spokesperson.
One of the students whose dorm was entered, Aaliyah Leal, told The Big Bend Sentinel that it was around 4 a.m. Thursday morning when she awoke and saw her door was cracked open. When she got out of bed to investigate, the person on the other side ran away.
“I started getting closer to my door and noticed it was creaking open like somebody was there and opening it themselves,” she said. “I got closer to it and I saw there was somebody trying to peek in and look at me. I guess they heard me getting closer to it so they ran out my front door.”
Leal said she thought it might have just been her roommate — but her roommate confirmed it hadn’t been her. “I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was my roommate, if it was a ghost. I got up an hour later to ask if it was her, she said no, and my heart just sank to my stomach.”
Leal was not able to get a good look at the intruder, but spoke to some other girls whose rooms had been entered around the same time, and said another girl was able to identify the student. She called the university’s police department and filed a report.
Leal’s father, Dominic Leal, has circulated a statement demanding the student’s expulsion. “I will not allow this situation to be swept under the rug,” he wrote.
Leal said that she had been unable to obtain a copy of the police report regarding the incident, and that university police had been argumentative and complained of her father’s statement when she tried to obtain it.
Another student, Maria Garcia, said she had a closer encounter with the accused intruder when he came to her door around 4:20 a.m. on Thursday morning. She was woken up by the sound of her door creaking — when she saw a man standing outside her bedroom door, she ran towards him, yelling at him to leave. He didn’t flee immediately, but apologized, and asked to confirm her name, which was written on her dorm door. Before he left, Garcia said, she got a good look at his face and also asked for his first name. She called the university police, who came to take her statement, but was unsettled the rest of the night.
“I remember feeling scared,” she wrote via text. “I cried, I was so confused and just kept think[ing] what would have happened if I didn’t wake up. And I couldn’t sleep much the rest of the night … I’m expecting a baby in 6-7 months from [now] and I was more worried and scared because of that.”
Garcia also expressed frustration with the university response and the pace of the investigation. On Facebook, where some alumni expressed displeasure with the university response, the school has stated that the investigation is ongoing and that students are entitled to due process.
This is a developing story. The Big Bend Sentinel will provide updates as they become available.