Suspicious man frightens students


In a safety alert Thursday, Gannon University Police and Safety reminded students of safe walking practices in light of a suspect identified by the Erie Police Department who was attempting to pick up women in a predatory manner.
The suspect was reported as an African American man driving a silver van talking to women.
Less Fetterman, the assistant director of Campus Police and Safety, said the suspect is still under investigation by Erie police and no charges have been filed yet. The police are still gathering evidence to be presented to the district attorney’s office, he said.
Fetterman said some students confirmed the suspect had approached them.
“I don’t think there’s a threat on campus because the suspect knows he is under investigation,” Fetterman said.
Some Gannon students recognized the suspect’s description, including Lexie Frazier, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major.
Frazier said she believes she encountered the man about a week before the emails went out as she was walking to Zurn Science Center between Sassafrass and Myrtle streets.
She said the man told her she was a beautiful girl with a great walk and asked her to model for him. Frazier said she ignored the request and told him she was on her way to class.
“He really didn’t want me to walk away and he seemed aggravated when I walked away,” Frazier said.
Frazier said this experience has not made her feel particularly unsafe on campus.
“It’s all about being aware of your surroundings and politely ignoring the comments of those who try to stop you,” Frazier said.
“I never have my phone out or headphones in so I can be completely aware of what’s going on around [me].”
A freshman interdisciplinary studies major, who wanted to remain anonymous, disagreed.
“It’s not just Gannon,” the student said. “I don’t feel safe anywhere.”
The student said she had experiences with men making uncomfortable comments while walking to class and basketball practice. A young African-American man approached her and showed her his phone, claiming he was recording her while walking on State Street, she said.
She said she wasn’t sure if it was the same man described in the emails.
“I really wish people knew how to act,” the student said. “It’s scary, demeaning, and I don’t feel safe.”
Campus police will not be able to solve the root of the problem, the student said. She stressed the importance of walking with friends, saying her experience is better walking with teammates.
Fetterman said students should know they can be polite and still walk away if someone suspicious approaches them.
“Predators – who are not necessarily looking for anything but trying to bum a cigarette – will use any angle to get a person to talk to them,” Fetterman said.
To stay safe on campus, Fetterman recommended walking in pairs, watching out for people or vehicles approaching and refusing to give out personal information like phone numbers.
“It seems like common sense, but it happens,” Fetterman said.

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