Student arrested after inappropriate conduct

A Gannon University student faces criminal charges, including two felony counts of aggravated assault, after an incident at the Nash Library Sunday afternoon.

Erie police identified the student as Christopher Hower, 25, who was accused of verbally threatening and assaulting the officers who arrived on the scene.

Hower was arraigned Sunday by 3rd Ward District Judge Tom Carney on several additional charges, including one count of resisting arrest, two counts of issuing terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, public drunkeness and non-compliance with a police order.

Representatives from Campus Police and Safety declined to comment Tuesday. Further inquiries to Erie Police were also rebuffed.

A University Marketing and Communications spokeswoman said Tuesday that Gannon Police and Safety officials responded to Nash Library regarding an “irrational student,” and after evaluating the situation they called in the Erie police for assistance.

According to students who witnessed the incident from the library’s basement computer lab, Hower entered the library’s stairwell and stood between the ground and basement floors for several minutes.

Then Hower began removing his clothing, including his shirt, socks, shoes, glasses and watch.

One witness, who requested not to be identified, claimed Hower started trying to walk along the wood railing of the staircase, and that he appeared to be speaking aloud.

“He looked like he was talking to someone, but there wasn’t anyone there,” the student said. “I guess he was talking to himself. You could tell at that point he was impaired by something. He didn’t look like he was all there.”

After about 15 minutes of this, witnesses watched as Hower began dressing again, but by this time a female Gannon officer arrived on the scene and asked for Hower’s student ID.

“She asked him for his ID, he gave it, she asked for something else, he held it out but pulled it back, and I could tell there was some kind of altercation,” a witness said.

The officer then tried to restrain Hower, but witnesses described her as having trouble as Hower began to raise his voice.

“He was really rough with her, and he used a lot of foul language,” a witness said. “Then another officer, I think a Gannon officer, came down to help. They tried to handcuff him in the stairwell, but once his hands were behind his back, he started fighting both police officers. Then they tackled him to the ground.”

By this time, several Erie police officers arrived in the stairwell, subdued Hower and escorted him from the premises.

Senior psychology major Holly Zill saw two Erie Police squad cars and a Gannon Police and Safety vehicle parked outside the library with their lights flashing. She also witnessed the officers leading Hower away.

“I was surprised he wasn’t ashamed, his head wasn’t down,” Zill said. “He was looking up and he was talking. He was mumbling to himself but the police officers were just [angry].”

Hower is currently being held in Erie County Prison in lieu of posting $50,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1.

One of the basement computer lab witnesses said the incident was bizarre at first, but could have quickly escalated if officers hadn’t promptly handled the situation.

“I didn’t feel threatened until he started the altercation with the officers,” the student said. “It was pretty scary, after all of the stuff in Boston, you just don’t know.”

 

DAN KUBACKI

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