Winthrop student attacked on campus

Winthrop University wants its students to be on the lookout for an unknown man with a scruffy beard who police say grabbed a female student and threw her into a wall before she screamed and fled.

The 20-year-old woman did not require medical treatment after the incident Wednesday night, Winthrop University Police Chief Frank Zebedis said.

"It appears that he is not affiliated with Winthrop," Zebedis said about the woman's attacker. "We're asking for anyone who saw anything to share that information with us."

The student body received an alert about the incident, which happened moments after the student walked out of Kinard Hall around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"She felt someone grab her on the shoulder," Zebedis said. "She turned around. He pushed her up against the building."

An incident report from the university police states that when the woman screamed, the man picked her up and slammed her back-first into the side wall at Kinard.

While the man held her against the building, he told her that she looked sexy, the victim told police. She also told police the man "smelled of alcohol," according to the report.

"She fought him and got away," Zebedis said.

On Thursday, students were concerned about the assault.

"That's a horrible thing to experience," said Brittany Begley, a 26-year-old business major. "I love night school because I'm a mother, and the classes work with my schedule, but I'm apprehensive."

Begley said she wants to focus on her education when she's at the university, not worry about her safety.

"I want to feel safe where I am," she said.

Ginna Stamps, a 27-year-old day commuter student, also was worried.

"It's scary because he came off the street to the campus," Stamps said as she stood in the parking lot at Dinkins Student Union. "The campus is so crowded, and people are always moving. Why would he choose to come to Winthrop knowing Winthrop has security?"

Other students said they're taking steps to stay safe.

"We always walk in numbers," said Anna Brock, a 20-year-old sophomore special education major. "There's safety in numbers."

Students say they'll be extra careful in light of this incident and others that have occurred on and around campus in recent years, including some burglaries in 2006 and 2007. In one incident, a female student was asleep around 4 a.m. when an intruder walked into her unlocked room in Wofford Hall and threatened her with a knife. After a struggle, the man ran away. A 24-year-old man pleaded guilty last year to that incident and to other burglaries and assaults involving Winthrop students and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Brock said she "was a little disturbed" to hear about Wednesday's assault but that she feels "Winthrop's pretty safe."

Said Zebedis, "This isn't something that happens on a regular basis on the campus."

Still, he cautioned students to remember safety is paramount.

"We always ask students if they're out at night to be aware of their surroundings," Zebedis said. "If they see something suspicious, go ahead and report it. Let us go check it out."

The department also provides escorts for students if requested, he said.

"If they'd like to have escorts to and from class, we'd be happy to give them those escorts," he said. "But we need to know they need an escort."

As for Wednesday's assault, Zebedis said the department will review its files on suspicious persons as well as people they've had problems with in the past. Campus police also will look at similar files from the Rock Hill Police Department.

Zebedis said some students realized they had seen the victim's attacker -- described as a white man with a "scruffy looking beard" -- after the alert was distributed.

"We have some leads that we're working," Zebedis said. "We had some students say around that time and around that building, we saw somebody who looks like that."

The report notes the man weighs about 180 pounds and stands about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

Anyone with information about the assault or the man's identity or location is asked to call the Winthrop University Police at 323-3333 or CrimeStoppers of York County at 1-877-409-4321.