As Boston University police officers continue their search for a man who allegedly sexually assaulted a student in her dorm room Oct. 18 at approximately 2 a.m., several residents of 33 Harry Agganis Way said the assault wasn’t the only security breach in the residence hall that morning.
Lily, a senior who lives in StuVi II and requested her last name not be used, said she was sleeping in her bed at about 2:40 a.m. on Oct. 18, the day of the alleged assault, when two men barged into her room, asking if she was “Sarah.” When she told them no, she said they apologized and left.
“In the moment, it didn’t seem threatening. I thought they were walking into the wrong room or they were looking for one of my roommates,” she said, though she added that none of her roommates are named Sarah. “But then when I saw the emergency alert the next day, I was super freaked out.”
Nour, Lily’s roommate who also asked to go by her first name only, said one of the men entered her bedroom first, waking her up and asking the same question.
“They seemed so harmless, and they seemed like they had genuinely just come into the wrong room,” she said. “But the next morning a friend of mine sent me the BU Alert, and I realized it could have been related.”
Nour went to the BU Police Department on Oct. 18, shortly after the BU community received the emergency alert, which stated that a female student was allegedly sexually assaulted in her StuVi II room between 2 and 2:50 a.m. that morning.
The student mentioned in the alert told police the man who assaulted her was a college-aged white male with brown hair and of medium build, about 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10. The victim also said he was wearing a dark-colored button-down, long-sleeve shirt and a down vest, the alert stated.
Lily and Nour said they’ve heard other students talk about similar incidents occurring in their suites, though most declined to share their stories with The Daily Free Press.
BUPD Lt. Detective Peter DiDomenica confirmed that officers have spoken to several students who shared details about men entering their suites the same evening as the sexual assault. He said BUPD is not yet sure whether the incidents are related to the assault, but the investigation is still active.
“Based on the nature of the activities, they are suspicious, and they have bearing on the actual assault in that they occurred around the same time in the same building,” he said. “It’s clearly relevant.”
At a town hall panel held Monday night on the top floor of StuVi II, approximately eight students met with BUPD officers, residence hall representatives and leaders from other student support groups on campus, including the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center.
Though attendance was lower than expected — several rows of chairs went unused — the students touched on a wide variety of questions, from campus-wide security to the status of the sexual assault investigation.
While officers at the panel said they could not comment on the progress of the investigation, they said they believe the assault was a random attack and assured students that officers are invested in finding the perpetrator.
“I’ve dedicated just about the whole unit to this, so trust me, it’s very important to us,” Detective Sergeant Peter Torchio, of BUPD’s detective bureau, said at the meeting. “We have a lot of avenues to go down, but we’ll get there.”
The weekend of the alleged sexual assault, which included both BU Parents Weekend and the Head Of The Charles Regatta, more than 500 guests were signed into StuVi II, Torchio said.
“It’s not just you guys. It’s the outside world that became a part of this investigation,” he said. “We also now have to consider beyond a controlled environment.”
BUPD Sergeant Jeff Burke said during the meeting that the best thing students can do to help officers find perpetrators on campus is to call about incidents as soon as possible.
“Call early,” he said. “When you get that gut feeling … just take a minute to call.”
As the investigation continues, Lily said, she just hopes more people whose rooms were entered will come forward and speak to the police.
And for now, she decided with her roommates to stop leaving their apartment door unlocked, which they had agreed to do in the beginning of the year in case someone forgot their key. After all, she said, the building has “always been very safe.”
“Nothing like this has ever happened, so we felt very safe to have our doors unlocked. But not anymore,” she said. “It’s locked all the time now.”