Man Banned From Winthrop For Harassing Female Students
Updated: Mar 5, 2019
Rock Hill, South Carolina—A man was banned indefinitely from Winthrop University’s campus after verbally harassing multiple female students. The first incident took place on April 10, but was reported on April 11, and he was located by Winthrop police officers and placed on trespass notification on April 13.
Junior “Peter” Nkyesiga was reported for making unusual and discomforting remarks to female students near the Dacus library. WUPD’s Chief of Police Frank Zebedis said that Nkyesiga reported being on campus to meet women and to fit in.
WUPD sent out an email warning the community of his actions on April 13 around 9:30 a.m. and sent a follow-up email roughly six hours later reporting that the man had been found and barred from campus. WUPD says that they first received a call about the man on April 12. However, two students argue that this is not accurate. Emily Murphy and Caitlan Walzer, both junior mass communication majors, show phone records with WUPD on April 11 around 1:15 p.m. from reporting their encounter with Nkyesiga.
They also reported being told by an officer that two other students had called about the man the previous day in addition to another student calling the same day as Murphy and Walzer. Additionally, they were told an officer was sent to patrol the campus to ensure that Nkyesiga does not bother students any further. Whether an officer was sent is unknown.
Murphy and Walzer reported that the man approached them for what they initially believed was to ask for directions, but they quickly realized his intentions were not so casual. At first, he asked for their names; then he asked if he could escort them to their destination. He continued to make comments to the women. Referring to Walzer, he said, “I came here for her,” and “Let me take you out,” among other remarks. They tried to deter him by giving short answers and intentionally making him feel unwelcome, but he persisted.
Murphy said that Nkyesiga showed a special interest in Walzer during their short interaction. “Sure, maybe someone can argue and say that it could be flattering to be asked out by a stranger, but the way he went about it, it was not flattering at all. I felt violated and I wasn’t the one even getting asked out,” said Murphy.
Walzer explained that Nkyesiga got a little too close for comfort by rubbing up against her side and touching her arms. At this point, she began to reach for her taser. “I believe he noticed me fumbling in my bag and he pressed himself against my side to where I couldn’t get it out.”
The women tried to divert the situation by claiming to go to a friend’s house, but he continued to walk with them. Murphy said, “I think that once it hit me that he wasn’t leaving us alone, I went into a bit of a shock.”
He stopped once they all reached the friend’s yard saying, “I’m not going to go any further than this, but I’d like your number, Caitlan.” She immediately declined, but he continued to ask questions regarding her personal information.
Murphy and Walzer did not report the incident until the next day when they found out Nkyesiga had approach other women. They had shared their interaction with more than 50 women in a Her Campus Media group message as a warning and one woman was approached by him the next day.
“That’s when we decided this wasn’t just some guy trying to hit on girls. This was a guy that was being aggressive toward multiple females,” said Walzer.
The two women said that their interaction with campus police was less than reassuring. Walzer explained that upon calling, the officer did not allow the women to give a full description of the situation and frequently interrupted their report, assuming that they were describing the same man from a previous call. Murphy said, “It seemed like the woman was more concerned that we didn’t call right after it happened and less concerned about our safety.”
Regarding reports of Nkyesiga’s activity, Zebedis said, “The incident allegedly began on Monday, April 10. Campus police received one confirmed call on April 12 about a subject at the library. That call was received 15 minutes after the incident and when officers arrived, the subject was gone.”
On April 12, Murphy, Walzer, and many other women took to social media out of anger with the goal of getting WUPD’s attention about the situation when no further action was taken following their phone call on April 11.
Catherine Lowe, a senior mass communication major, was the first to tweet about the incident, tagging the university in the comment. She questioned why a WU Alert had not been sent out to notify the students about the man, to which the school’s account, @winthropu, responded, “Can this person please call Campus Police and report this so that we can be aware of it? Can’t have an alert if we don’t know about it.”
She responded saying that numerous women had already called to report the man. Lowe was another woman who called about Nkyesiga on April 11. This caused an arsenal of tweets to be fired at the school.
One of many participants, Maclane Riley, tweeted, “@winthropu should be taking this more seriously due to previous attacks, but I guess they’re waiting to care until something tragic happens.” Zebedis said, “After the social media discussion, campus police received a flag down on April 12 from a student who showed an officer a text she received from two friends making a claim about the person on April 10, but we never heard from those two people.” It is unknown if the message was from Murphy and Walzer.
As previously mentioned, an email was sent out to students to warn them about Nkyesiga on April 13, the day following the social media discussion. Additionally, Walzer reported receiving a call from Sgt. Yearta so he could obtain her full statement. The man was caught shortly after their conversation that same day.
Murphy said, “WUPD definitely responded more to the social media posts. I think they were a little bit embarrassed to have been called out on Twitter, so that’s when they decided to send out a report.” Zebedis did not offer any comment regarding the social media discussion.
The email gave a general description of Nkyesiga, only saying that he was a black male with a thick accent.
Winthrop basketball player, Xavier Cooks (@xaviercooks12), who is black and an Australian native found humor in the email’s description and reassured his fellow students that he was not the suspect WUPD was looking for. He tweeted, “Everyone at Winthrop is searching for a black male with a thick accent… I promise girls, I’m not the creep!”
Another male, who goes by the twitter handle @aDJsavedmyLife_, reached out to women online. He shared a graphic that explained that if any female student felt unsafe walking alone on campus, she could contact the given number on the flyer and have a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. escort them to their destination.
A follow-up email was sent out around 3 p.m. to brief the students on the situation. Zebedis explained in his email that because Nkyesiga’s actions never rose to a level of criminal activity, he was only placed on indefinite trespass from the campus. He continued, saying the suspect’s name and photo are available on the school’s trespass database, so that students can keep an eye out in case he returns. According to Zebedis, if this occurs, he will be arrested and charged with trespassing.
Many students expressed dissatisfaction with the school’s notifications regarding Nkyesiga’s actions. Alyssa Sconzo, a junior mass communication major, felt strongly about the emails that were sent to students. She said, “It was so condescending and seemed to blame the victims and blame us for voicing our concerns on social media because no one else would listen!” She feels that WUPD should have sent out a WU Alert immediately after the first student had reported Nkyesiga.
Another student, Ann Marie Langrehr said, “WUPO should be focusing on catching this guy and getting him away from our campus--not passive aggressively attacking the people who are actually trying to do something about it.”
Zebedis said, “This person violated no law and this incident didn’t meet a Clery federal mandate to send out an alert. However, based upon the information I started to receive from the social media and the number of students who may have encountered him, I thought an informational email was appropriate and that would be the same action I would take again. There is no law against talking with people, and this subject never touched anyone or assaulted anyone.”
However, Zebedis’ statement regarding Nkyesiga never touching students does not align with Walzer’s previously mentioned report of the situation.
Zebedis encourages students to always be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity. He said, “Winthrop is a safe campus and campus police do a good job keeping it safe. However, safety is a two-way street. We can only help when we are made aware of incidents and people need to play a part in keeping themselves safe—just like you would do living in any community in the country.”
Murphy urges campus police to take more action when potential predators are initially identified on campus. She said, “You can’t always stop bad people or bad things from happening, but you can at least get people more aware.
She continued, “For the first time since I started school at Winthrop, I didn’t feel safe.”
For more information regarding offenders, students can access the trespasser database on the Winthrop University Campus Police website.