Police still in search of alleged Palmetto attacker

Campus police are still looking for the suspect of a sexual assault that occurred 5 a.m. Sunday near Palmetto Street North Apartments.

The assault is the latest of several crimes near the complex, and officials have few developments in the case.

“The victim of the assault is a female student at Florida A & M University,” said Lt. Angela Kirkland, uniform patrol commander for the FAMU police department. “On the morning of the incident, the victim was approached while traveling alone near Palmetto Street.”

In the police report filed by FAMU Officer Antoine Ford, the victim described the assailant as a 5-foot-8 inch, dark-skinned black male.

“The victim was not able to get a better description of the man because it was dark outside,” Kirkland said.

On the morning of the incident, the university sent out a notice through the e2Campus alert system at 8:55 a.m. The alert informed the public to be on the lookout for a male suspect dressed in all black clothing. The department has not received any major leads in the case since Jan. 14.

“No arrest has been made,” Kirkland said. “We are asking that students be vigilant.”

FAMU Police Chief Calvin Ross said in a statement, “The investigation is still ongoing and due to its sexual nature, some details cannot be released at this time.”

Campus officials have made plans to speak with students who have concerns.

Resident Director William Johnson will host a series of spring 2007 meetings for the Palmetto Street North complex. A meeting will take place every day from Jan. 16-18. Johnson emphasized that the meetings were previously scheduled and were not a response to the sexual assault. In fact, Johnson said he was not contacted by the police about the incident.

“I have not spoken with anyone from the police department about the assault,” Johnson said. “They didn’t tell me anything because it happened across the street from our complex.”

In his notes for the meetings, Johnson plans to advise students to always report “any strange person” on the housing grounds to the police.

He also warns both male and female students to never travel alone at night.

This is not the first time that a crime has taken place near Palmetto Street this school year.

On Oct. 27, Brian Walton, a student from Atlanta, was forced at gunpoint into the trunk of his car by a carjacker while leaving Palmetto Phase III Apartments. Walton escaped from the trunk, and his car was later recovered. At that time, security on campus was minimal. Low security may still pose a danger for some areas on campus, specifically apartments along Palmetto Street with low-lying trees and poor lighting.

“The university S.A.F.E. Team is not operating at this time,” Kirkland said.

The team of volunteers worked in the past as escorts to help students travel safely to and from classrooms, parking lots and campus houses after dark.

Officials remain puzzled by the incident that occurred Sunday. Kirkland urges anyone with information about the assault to come forward.

“We are asking students who may have seen or heard anything to please contact the FAMU Police Department,” Kirkland said. FAMU PD can be reached at (850) 599-3256.