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MSU police investigate sex assault near campus

By Eric Turcio, Reporter, eturcio@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 25 2013 08:19:11 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 09:58:32 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Montana State University police are investigating a reported sexual assault near campus.

NBC Montana learned the details of the alleged assault in an email alert sent out all students, faculty and staff late Wednesday night. We obtained a copy of the email and followed up with MSU police who tell us they still have no leads or suspects at this time.

Assistant Police Chief Mark Lachapelle explained the alleged victim told officers she passed out in an unfamiliar home after being intoxicated. MSU police tell  us the woman is 22 years old.

She reported to police  waking up and not recognizing the residence. According to MSU police, it was then the woman checked in at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital,  claiming to have been raped.

Lachapelle says doctors examined her and contacted authorities.

He told us officers combed the areas of Grant Street, 6th and Willson avenues for hours. MSU police tell us after their 3-hour search they sent out the email alerting the MSU community.

"It's an unknown situation. We have nobody in custody. We have no suspect and believe that there is a serious danger to the community," said Lachapelle.

Montana State University sent out an email alert to students faculty and staff -- but chose not to send a text alert.

We spoke to administrators and students to get their thoughts about the decision not to send a text alert in addition to the email.

MSU officials told NBC Montana they sent out an email at 9:35 p.m. on Wednesday. The email detailed a report of a sexual assault near campus. We asked students if they were aware of the alleged assault.

"I just checked my email this morning and I haven't gotten anything," said Triana Bouillon.

Bouillon is a student at MSU and says she checked her email twice on Wednesday, but never received an alert about the alleged sex assault.

After talking with several students, we learned Bouillon was not the only student unaware of the email warning.

Allie Pickeral told us students respond faster when text messages are sent out. Pickeral says MSU officials should have used their Text Alert System.

"Everyone's certainly on their phones and it would be the best way to get a hold of people and let them know what's happening," said Pickeral.

We asked MSU Communications Director Tracy Ellig why a text alert was not sent in addition to the email warning. Ellig says the alleged assault was not directly on campus; therefore not a direct threat to students on campus.

"We did not use the MSU text messaging system in this case, because we didn't deem this to be an imminent threat to our campus," said Ellig.

Ellig explained people have to sign up to receive the text alerts because it is a voluntary service.

We checked the facts on the federal law that mandates campus officials notify students in emergencies or after certain events. What we found shows each school is allowed some latitude in deciding what it will do.

NBC Montana learned the Clery Act is a landmark federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose information about certain crimes on or around campuses.

The Clery Act has two sections,  the first addresses emergency warnings triggered as soon as officials confirm an emergency. Examples include a sniper on campus, a chemical leak or weather alert.

The second section of the act refers to timely warnings. A timely warning email is required to go campus-wide. The MSU email was sent to all students, faculty and staff at MSU Bozeman.

MSU police describe the suspect as a white male, between 5-foot-6 and 6-feet-tall. Officials say he could weigh anywhere between 220 to 240 pounds. Police describe the suspect having a short "buzz cut," blond hair and a goatee.
     
If you have any information you are urged to contact MSU police at 994-2121.