BREAKING: AUPD opens investigation into suspicious activity in Kerwin Hall
The University is encouraging anyone with information to contact AUPD
The American University Police Department is investigating reports of a suspicious person who was seen Thursday in Kerwin Hall, according to a statement from Elizabeth Deal, the assistant vice president for internal communications.
A text message was posted Thursday evening on social media, claiming that a person was “going into classrooms in Kerwin and asking when finals are going to be, when finals week is, how many people are going to be there.” It also described the person looking through windows and corners of the rooms and taking notes.
“We have received reports about a matter in Kerwin Hall and are actively investigating,” Deal told The Eagle. “AUPD has spoken to individuals who reported and are reviewing surveillance video.”
Deal also said in a phone call to The Eagle that there is “no known threat to the University” and urged anyone with information to contact AUPD.
AU released the same message on University social media accounts.
The matter raised concerns about safety among students, faculty and staff, according to social media comments and interviews with witnesses.
A social media post, titled “American University Suspicious Person Notice,” which described the person and their actions, was not sent by the University, Deal said.
The person that posted the message said she was “not privy to any unique information.” A statement posted in the comments was from a witness and not her, she said.
Nathan Surmeian, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, said someone whose appearance and questions matched the description posted on social media sat down next to him in his GOVT-455 class Thursday morning.
Later in the day, another of Surmeian’s professors, Claire Griggs, a professorial lecturer in SPA, “had mentioned that the same thing had happened in one of her classes.”
“She locked the door after she came in, then explained that this same person came into her class and asked about the exam schedule,” Surmeian said. “That’s when everyone began to freak out about it and class was let out early.”
Surmeian said he “didn’t think anything of it” until Griggs brought it up in class.
“It just took hearing about it a second time for it to really click,” he said.
An email obtained and verified by The Eagle from SPA Dean Vicky Wilkins to SPA faculty confirmed that Griggs asked the stranger, “Can I help you?”
A portion of the email was also posted in the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate Canvas page.
Wilkins said in the email that the person said he was in the class, but “[h]e in fact was not in our class and left as soon as [Griggs] called him out.”
Wilkins said Griggs reported the encounter to AUPD immediately. The police department told Wilkins that officers were investigating and that they will “continue to try and identify the person described in the email.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
This article was edited by Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Stella Guzik.