Officials: Evidence supports SFA police incident wasn’t racially motivated

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Investigators at Stephen F. Austin State University said Wednesday they do not believe an incident involving police entering a student’s room earlier this month was racially motivated.

Freshman Christin Evans, 17, said she felt “shaken” after police stormed into her room with guns drawn Sept. 14 while she was sleeping. Evans, who is Black, said she believed the incident was orchestrated by her white roommates and that she believes the incident was motivated by her race.

SFA police Chief John Fields said there are up to 11 females involved in the incident. Three of them are Black, one is Hispanic and the others are white, Fields said.

“The evidence doesn’t lead to any racism,” Fields said. “It’s more students doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.”

Fields did not elaborate on the “stuff” to which he was referring, but he did say that all of the females involved in the incident had lots of interactions leading up to the incident.

Police account of incident

Fields said officers received a call from the community advisor at the dorm, saying that a student was threatening to stab another student with scissors and may have been experiencing a manic episode.

The chief said officers responded to the incident as if a student’s life was in danger. He said that when officers arrived to room 103, where they were called, they were redirected by people in the hallway to room 116.

Fields said body-worn camera footage confirms that officers knocked on the door four times but no one answered. He said a suitemate let officers into the room.

The chief said one officer had his gun drawn and was using the flashlight on it to see what was going on inside the darkened room. He said officers found Evans asleep and immediately de-escalated and asked her to step into the hall to speak with officers.

“At no time did we go inside the room like the wild, wild west, like it’s been presented in the media,” Fields said. “The officers were always professional, and they had a conversation with her.”

Fields said they have asked the parents of Evans for permission to release the bodycam footage so that people can see what happened.

The chief said that once the investigation is complete, the findings will be turned over to the district attorney to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.

Review process

Dennis Mosley, head of the school’s Office of Community Standards, said rights-and-responsibilities investigation is also being conducted to determine if the students involved in the incident should be disciplined.

He said a hearing will be held before a finding of responsibility is rendered. Punishment can range from a reprimand to expulsion.

“This takes time,” Mosely said.

President’s reaction

Scott Gordon, president of SFA, said he was outraged by the incident and that Evans and her family have the full support of the school.

Gordon said Tuesday that he believes the students may have filed a false report and possibly broke the law.

“Those who are involved in this case will be held accountable,” Gordon said.

Gordon also said that he was concerned about the fact that he had to learn about the incident from Evans' family. He promised an independent review of the processes of incidents being brought to the attention of administrators.

Gordon issued the following written statement after Wednesday’s news conference:

"During the past two days, I have received briefings on the details of the case involving the false reporting incident that occurred on September 14. As a result of these briefings, I have become very concerned about some irregularities in this case, specifically the amount of time it took for this case to be turned over to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the fact that I learned of this case from the victim’s mother many days after the incident.

“The delay in reporting this case to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities was unacceptable and will be addressed. I will engage an outside, independent investigator to conduct a review of the Division of University Affairs. This will include the policies, procedures, practices and reporting structure within housing, student affairs and student conduct. Upon completion of this report, I will evaluate all findings and recommendations and make decisions on how we move forward to ensure our future procedures are seamless and timely.”

You can watch the full press conference below.