As issues of race and diversity come to a head on campus, a disturbing account of a Public Safety assault on a student has emerged. As you may be aware, Paulie Lowther ’13 was found at the Freeman Athletic Center on Tuesday, October 30, and charged with criminal trespass and breach of peace. After being released from custody, Lowther, who is African-American, was diagnosed with a concussion.
Accounts of what transpired during the encounter vary.
According to the Hartford Courant, which sources its information from the police report, “Lowther tried to run away from public safety officers when found at 12:10 a.m.” Police say he appeared drunk when taken into custody. (Lowther says he was under the legal limit.) Public Safety claims he refused to identify himself and fled when found.
Wesleying Editor Zach Schonfeld ’13 visited Lowther’s house on Fountain earlier this week to get his side of the story.
According to Lowther, he was invited to a pool party in Freeman on the night of Tuesday, October 30th, which was during Hurricane Sandy. He entered through the side door, which had been propped open by the organizers of the party. When he arrived, other students were in the pool. Before joining them, he got in the sauna.
When in the sauna, “[he] heard a bunch of people yell ‘P-Safe’ and a lot of running.” He decided to not run. A female Public Safety officer arrived. Staying in the sauna, he told her his Wes ID number and that he was a student. The officer “said it didn’t match anything on file,” according to Lowther.
After male Public Safety officers arrived, he was told to get dressed in the locker room. The story continues in his own words from here:
I felt an officer grab me from behind and ask what I was doing here. I told him I was a student. I told him I was a student. Repeatedly said I was a member of the track team, where I live … He took the back of my neck and pushed me into the concrete wall. I was not resisting; my body was fairly limp at this point, so my head hit the wall fairly hard. I had cuts on the inside of my ear and a bruise on the side of my cheekbone, and cuts on my knuckles from bracing myself against the wall…
They kept asking me, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” I told the first officer that there was barely any relay of information between the officers. And I really just didn’t understand why I was being taken into a hold.
After my head hit the wall, it was a little shocking. I asked the officer why he thought that was necessary. He just kept telling me, “Get on the ground.” [At no point] did the Public Safety officer say I used any physicality towards them… Later on I found out I had in fact suffered a concussion. All I could say was, “I’m on the track team, on the track team, here are my keys, here’s my address.”
At that point another officer walked from around the corner. He again began questioning me about who I was and all these things. At this point I was very frantic. I was still in the wake of getting a concussion. A little frantic at this point, trying to rattle off anything I can tell them. Nothing seems to be getting through to the guy who came from around the corner. He struck me three times in the face, open palm, right in my temple. Two minutes later they get a call from the dispatch saying, “Oh, we found his name on file.” Meaning they found that I’m actually a student. They let me stand up, they let me go to the bathroom. I repeatedly asked about their protocol and they barely made any eye contact with me after they found out I’m a student.
The Middletown police showed up after all this happened and P-Safe was allowed to brief them on the story as they saw it before I was even able to talk to the MPD. And the MPD officers never asked me my side of the story—they only asked me how I got into the building.
I’m not sure what their thought process was. I really don’t know. After my head was smashed into the wall, I became so frantic that I didn’t know what happened next. You get me face down naked on the floor and then you smack me three more times… What do you want me to give you?
Never once did the officer state I used any sort of physicality towards them.
At an SJB hearing Thursday, November 8, Lowther was given a deferred suspension. According to the Argus, “additional violations during the probationary period will result in suspension or dismissal.” Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer declined to comment for this article, except to say that “the Courant account needs to be looked at.”
For more information, here’s the Argus’ coverage of the incident.