After an outcry and online petition drive, Winthrop University now says it will install an emergency call box in a parking lot that was the scene of an attempted armed robbery of a student last week, and where another student was sexually assaulted in 2014.
Winthrop President Dan Mahony made the announcement in an email sent to students on Wednesday.
“I was happy to meet with the students who led a recent petition effort today,” Mahony says in the email. “I let them know that we will place a call tower on a concrete platform to be installed on the parking lot ‘island’ closest to Margaret Nance (residence hall).”
On the night of Feb. 29, a woman was walking across the parking lot when she was approached by a man on a bicycle who demanded she turn over her belongings.
A dramatic altercation ensued, with the victim fighting back and tossing her wallet and cell phone under a nearby parked car. The robber reportedly pulled a gun on the student, but dropped it. The magazine clip came out of the weapon, and the woman kicked it away from the man.
After the robber retrieved the gun, magazine and the victim’s cell phone, he fled the scene on his bicycle. Winthrop police later released a sketch of the suspect, but no arrests have been made.
In response to the robbery, students started an online petition that ultimately garnered 879 signatures calling for an emergency call box to be placed near the site of the attack. The closest call box to the area is at far end of the West Center, the building behind Nance, the petition says. Students also complained that the parking lot was dimly lit.
Early on Oct. 31, 2014, another young woman was attacked and sexually assaulted at gunpoint in the same parking lot. Students witnessed the assault from a dorm room window after hearing the victim’s screams and called 911.
John Tyrone Roddey Jr., 24, was arrested moments later. In January, he plead guilty to kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct, and received a 20-year prison sentence.
Despite the incidents, records show a low level of violent crime on the Winthrop campus. Winthrop police say the last armed robbery on campus occurred in 2007.
In his email, Mahony encouraged students to remain vigilant and “look out for one another” around campus.
“There’s nothing I take more seriously than the safety and wellbeing of everyone who lives, learns, and works at Winthrop,” Mahony said. “I very much appreciate the concern students have also demonstrated by coming together and requesting a call tower in the Margaret Nance parking lot.”