A student was attacked at a party in Mahoney-Pearson Residential College on the night of Sept. 20, when school was closed and on-campus residents were on lockdown for Hurricane Rita, police said.
The incident, considered a simple battery, reportedly involved a student and a non-UM student who is a football player’s girlfriend. A police report was filed and the case is undergoing investigation.
According to the police report, Natalie Watkins, senior, was attending a party at Mahoney when her friend Amber Aldredge, senior, informed her that a woman was trying to get her attention. When Watkins approached the woman, whose name was not released, the woman was allegedly verbally aggressive and knocked Watkins to the ground, straddling her and punching her in the face 10 to 15 times. Watkins did not strike back, the police report said.
The two women were pulled away from each other, at which point freshman Chris Rutledge allegedly approached them and pushed them back onto the ground. Watkins was again struck two to six times. According to the police report, Aldredge and Watkins said that the woman is Rutledge’s girlfriend. Rutledge is an offensive lineman of the football team at UM.
When Aldredge tried to break up the fight between Watkins and the woman, Rutledge pushed her from behind and told her to “stay out of this,” police reported. When she tried to intervene a second time, Rutledge allegedly pushed her to the ground.
The police report said that Watkins sustained a swollen left eye, a contusion to the right side of her mouth and a scratch to her right chest area. Her white pants were marked with blood. Watkins’ vision in her left eye was distorted and blurry until Sunday, she later told The Hurricane.
Watkins also said students witnessed the incident and didn’t take action.
“There were several UM students, and no one helped in any way,” she said.
According to Henry Christensen, director of public safety, in the case of a lockdown, the University has at least one police officer stationed in each residence hall. Residence Coordinators at Mahoney could not be reached for comment.
A simple battery occurs when a person actually and intentionally touches another person against their will or causes another person injury.
“If it isn’t great bodily harm or permanent injury it is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree,” Christensen said. “Repercussions are a definite term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.”
According to the police report, Rutledge is listed as a suspect in the case. Repercussions for individuals involved in aiding a crime are determined through investigation and need to be brought to the state attorney’s office, Christensen said.
The University has a strict policy towards battery cases. Students involved face possible suspension under the University Code of Conduct, said William W. Sandler, dean of students, though he could not comment about the consequences facing Rutledge.
“When we talk about discipline we don’t talk about specific cases [or] cases that involve students. The University and the dean of students’ office are investigating,” Sandler said.
No arrests were made on site because, according to the department of public safety, police have to witness the crime to make an arrest.
“Every case is different,” Christensen said. “Depending on the evidence, they can make an arrest, but usually if it doesn’t happen in the officer’s presence, for a misdemeanor [an officer] wouldn’t make an arrest.”
“It sounds to me like a crime arguably has occurred, it sounds like they did see blood and wounds, so why wasn’t that sufficient?” Bruce J. Winick, professor of law, said. “[The police] might not want to make an arrest if they consider it a misdemeanor but [Watkins] could try to initiate a complaint and the state attorney’s office can decide if they want to pursue it.”
Natalia Maldonado can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.