Students shocked by alleged sexual assault, investigation continues

By Cameron Kerkau, managing editor, and Josie Norris, editor-in-chief.

The investigation into the report of rape on Delta College’s main campus continues. Director of Public Safety Robert Battinkoff says that there is currently limited information to go on.

Michigan State Police Crime Lab has examined the alleged victim’s car for evidence and the results are pending.

The suspect has yet to be identified.

“We’re seeking any information that are community members can provide us on anything they may have seen at or about the time that the incident happened that they thought was suspicious or concerning,” says Battinkoff.

On Wednesday Feb. 22, the alleged victim reported that an unknown male grabbed her from behind as she was getting into her vehicle at or about 6 p.m. in the J wing parking lot. The suspect  forced her into her car and assaulted her before fleeing in an unknown vehicle, possibly with a second suspect, according to the alleged victim’s report.

The victim could not provide a description of the suspect.

“It is not unusual, because of how traumatic these kinds of events can be, for it to take time for the victim to remember details. So we’re staying in contact with the victim and providing support and hopefully through the process, more details will come back to her,” says Battinkoff.

Delta does have security cameras, but none are located in the parking lots.

Battinkoff says that students should try to avoid being alone by walking with a friend or group, especially in areas where there isn’t many people around, park as close as you can to the building and try to stay in well-lit areas.  

“We do provide an escort service for anyone to and from their vehicle or anywhere on campus. We’ll send an officer to escort them if they’re at all concerned. We encourage all of our community members to watch out for one another,” says Battinkoff.

Kourtney Piar, 23, of Bridgeport says her mother has always encouraged her to use the buddy system and not walk to her car by herself at night, but Pair never thought something would happen so close to her.

“You think of [Delta] as a safe spot, but I guess it can happen here… I didn’t think it would happen here, to be honest,” says Piar.

Because of the report, Pair says she has become more aware of her surroundings on campus.

Jayann Schimmoller, 21, of Shields says hearing of the alleged sexual assault scared her.

“When I first started here, I carried a pocket knife and people told me I was paranoid. Now that it’s happened, it really makes me want to start carrying a pocket knife again just so that I have some kind of protection,” says Schimmoller.

While Battinkoff reminds that the campus has historically been a safe place, he says that it’s completely understandable that students would feel less safe after the incident.

“We have had very few incidents of this nature on campus and when something that far out of the ordinary happens it does tend to make people feel unsafe. My experience here is that Delta College is committed to the safety of their students and visitors, staff and faculty. We’re taking all of the reasonable steps that we can to help ensure our students of their safety,” says Battinkoff.

The last reported sexual assault on Delta’s Main Campus was in 2014. Michigan State Police concluded their investigation and the case was taken to court. The prosecution found there was insufficient evidence for a trail and the case was dismissed.

Alysan Huff, 22, of West Branch was on campus late Wednesday night when the alleged assault occurred. Huff was concerned about the three-hour delay between when the assault occurred and when students were alerted “because of the fact that we had to walk outside in the dark.”

Huff is also concerned that the suspect has not been found.

“It’s kind of weird, like, is he still around here?” Huff questioned.

The assault was said to have occurred around 6 p.m. but the alleged victim did not report it to law enforcement until 9 p.m. At that time, those who were signed up to receive text alerts through Delta’s Emergency Notification System were informed of the reported assault minutes later.

Jonathan Shillington, 18, of Saginaw appreciates that those who were signed up for the emergency alerts were informed of the alleged assault.

“I was told that if that happened five years ago that texts wouldn’t have been sent out just because of different policies,” Shillington says. “I’m glad we have the right to know now so we can be more aware that that kind of stuff happened.”

Going forward, Shillington is concerned as to what measures will be taken to protect students.

“I wish we’d know if they were doing anything safety wise for students at night. Either put out another security guard or cameras in the parking lot,” says Shillington.

According to Battinkoff, there is an officer on duty anytime that the school is open and there are students on campus.

“Be aware of your surroundings. If you see anything suspicious, anything that makes you uncomfortable, contact Public Safety right away… and we’ll send an officer to investigate,” says Battinkoff.

Public Safety can be reached at (989) 686-9112. If anyone has any information regarding this incident, they can contact Battinkoff at (989) 686-9113.

Individuals can sign up for emergency alerts Emergency Notification System by visiting the Public Safety website at delta.edu/publicsafety.aspx.

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