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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Attacks in Village, Massell

Published: December 9, 2005
Section: News

The rooms of four female residents of the Village and Massell quads were entered last weekend by an unknown college-age assailant, and one resident was assaulted, according to Ed Callahan and the Waltham Police Department. The victim of the Village assault was transported to Newton-Wellesley Hospital to treat her injuries.
At approximately 4 a.m. Saturday, according to the first of two safety alerts Public Safety sent to the Brandeis community, a student in the Village A residence hall was repeatedly punched by an individual who then quickly fled the building.

According to eyewitness statements, as well as statements given by the Village victim, Charlotte Benham 07, the assailant entered the room, quietly closing the door as to not attract suspicion. Before Benham, who was in bed reading in her underwear, could react, the suspect grabbed her around the waist, pulled her from her bed, and punched her repeatedly, until Benham kicked the assailant off her.

He [the attacker] didnt say a word the entire time… he was just totally emotionless said Benham, in an interview with WBZ-TV Boston. The assailant then dropped her, fleeing the scene. Arjan Singh Flora 07, who inadvertently gave the attacker access to the building, pursued the fleeing suspect, and soon after returned to Benham, calling the Department of Public Safety. A second witness, who had been sleeping on a couch in the floors common room, woke to Benhams screams and she too saw the attacker flee.

Benham, according to the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), suffered from severe contusions… [and] looked as if she had been punched right in the eyes, and was in shock for nearly 20 minutes. Benham also suffered damage to her hands, presumably defensive wounds. Benham has since been released from Newton-Wellesley Hospital with no broken bones and has returned to her home in Worcester. She is still attending classes, and, according to a broadcast on WBZ-TV, intends to return to campus next semester. She has also stated that she is uncertain of why the attacker struck, but said, I dont think it was sexual… I think his mission was just to punch me out.

While none of the witnesses involved have been able to give definitive descriptions of the attacker, the assailant has been described as approximately 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighing between 160 and 180 pounds, according to reports from the Office of Public Safety, eyewitness reports, and the Waltham Police Department. The assailant reportedly has brown hair that is grown over his ears and was reported to be wearing a green jacket. According to some reports, the assailant also wore a baseball cap.
Thus far, Public Safety has no leads on the assailants identity based on card access, as the attacker tail-gated, or followed, entering student Flora into the card-operated doors of the Village. Public Safety urges students, however, to dial Public Safetys Emergency Hotline at 781-526-3333, or use any of the blue-lit emergency phones around campus, if students see anything suspicious.

BEMCO director and clinical supervisor Elan Schefflein, 06, commented on the shocking nature of the assault, especially when compared to another, lighter-scale assault call between two intoxicated students at the Foster Mods earlier that night: The patrol officer asked me to come immediately because he knew it was pretty serious.” Schefflein, however, was quick to mark the unusualness of this attack: After the call, I rounded up the crew, and we just sort of sat in the truck and talked… we said this was the worst thing we had ever seen at Brandeisthis does not happen here.

Meanwhile, later that night, there were three reports of assault in Massell Quad, in the Shapiro dormitories. Two of the reports involved an assailant touching the female victims legs until they awoke, and the third, who had initially ignored the incident as just another drunk college student, reported that an assailant entered her room, and then left immediately upon discovering the inhabitant awake. One of the victims, who was touched while she was asleep, thought initially the intruder was merely a dream until she saw the attacker fleeing. The victims, after receiving Public Safetys first emailed safety alert, then reported their own assaults, which led to Public Safety sending out a second email message Monday morning.

Ed Callahan, the head of the Office of Public Safety, stated that the Office of Public Safety was collaborating with the Waltham Police Department to further pool their resources. From the get-go, the Waltham Police Department has been informed, Callahan said. Nothing is just a Brandeis matter in terms of public safety. Callahan also has since augmented campus security, conducting additional patrols and summoning additional officers from the Waltham Police Department. Were trying to gather additional clues to the identity of the person or persons involved, said Callahan. But as of right now, we dont know.

According to the Waltham Tribune, police are sure the same man [who attacked Benham] wandered into the four, unlocked bedrooms between 2 and 4 a.m. The Waltham Police, while giving Public Safety the majority of the investigation, have supplemented Public Safety patrols, and will continue to do so for an undisclosed amount of time.

Callahan, while stressing Brandeis commitment to public safety, strongly urged Brandeis students to be cautious of their environment. In addition to locking their doors, students should be cognizant of their surroundings… not [letting] anyone they dont know get into the building.

Weve added additional patrols, additional Waltham officers, interacted with Residence Life, set up two crime alerts [via e-mail], weve increased the number of vans…Students should utilize the services [Public Safety] offers.