Parents question CMPD handling of daughter’s reported sexual assault
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The parents of a Myers Park High School student who reported being sexually assaulted by a fellow student called On Your Side Investigates for help after, they said, police did not do enough to investigate their daughter's claims.
WBTV is withholding the name of the student and her parents due to the nature of the alleged crime.
The reported incident happened before school started early in the morning of Tuesday, November 3, 2015.
The female student said she was taken into the woods behind the school before classes started at 7:10 a.m. and forced to perform oral sex on a male student.
The two students knew each other. During their time off campus, the female student was texting her friends and parents saying she had been kidnapped.
Texts for help get slow response
"Mom I'm being kidnapped," the female texted at 7:18 a.m., text messages provided by the family show. "Call somebody. Don't call me."
A minute later, the student texted a group message to her friends at school saying "Call the cops." When a friend responded why, she replied by telling them to find the school resource officer.
More than 30 minutes later—after unsuccessfully texting both her parents and her group of friends in hopes an officer would come find her—she texted at 8:05 a.m. "I was attacked. I feel so gross."
A recording provided by the parents of the female student shows friends approached the school resource officer for help but he declined to look for her, saying he had seen her leaving campus hand-in-hand with the male student.
A call from the female student's parents eventually prompted the SRO to search for, and ultimately find, the two students. They were on the outskirts of the woods behind the school. The female had semen on her sweater, her parents said.
"On Tuesday, November 3, I was attacked in the woods. After the attack, Officer Leake showed up," the female student recounted in an interview with On Your Side Investigates.
"He told us to get in the car but I didn't want to get in the car with the guy who attacked me so I shook my head no and he just told me to get in the front seat," she said. "He asked me what happened but I was too scared to say anything because he was still in the car. So Officer Leake drove us back to Myers Park and when the guy got out of the car, I told Officer Leake that I was sexually assaulted."
Police tell On Your Side Investigates the female student never reported being sexually assaulted to the school resource officer.
The female student's parents were waiting for her at Myers Park High School by the time she returned back to campus with the school resource officer. They immediately took her to Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville for a sexual assault examination.
According to 911 calls and discharge paperwork from the hospital, nurses at CMC-Pineville performed a sexual assault kit and collected physical evidence.
Five 911 calls and no response
The female student and her parents spent hours at the CMC-Pineville ER waiting for police to respond to the hospital, records show.
Hospital staff called 911 four times to request an officer respond to the ER, according to call recordings provided by CMPD.
The first call came at 9:38 a.m. During the call, a sexual assault exam nurse tells the 911 operator that she has a sexual assault victim at the hospital and requests an officer come pick up the evidence collected.
A second nurse called 911 again at 10:13 a.m. to make sure an officer was responding to the hospital.
"One of our nurses called and, unfortunately, we don't have the name of who she spoke with at CMPD," the nurse said. "The resource officer at the high school was placing the report. We would like an officer to come here and take a statement from the patient."
CMC-Pineville nurses called 911 two more times. The female student's mother also called from the hospital just after 1:00 p.m. A police officer had still not been by the hospital.
"I'm at CMC-Pineville hospital. My daughter was sexually assaulted today and when I called the non-emergency police they told me to call 911," the mother said. "I haven't spoken with a detective yet and, well, we don't know how to file a report."
The dispatcher responded by saying it appeared as though police are on the scene but the mother clarified to say she and her daughter had been at the hospital all morning and had not seen an officer.
In an interview with On Your Side Investigates, Major Cam Selvey, who oversees the unit that handles sexual assault investigations, said police did not respond to the hospital because of a miscommunication.
"That was a miscommunication and that is something that is regrettable and it's something that we will learn from moving forward," Selvey said.
According to Selvey, the miscommunication stemmed from confusion amongst the call takers and dispatchers who saw a report had been filed and detectives were on scene at the high school.
He did not explain why call takers failed to contact detectives to clarify their status prior to the fifth call being made from the hospital at 1:00 p.m.
Shortly after that call from the female student's mother, a sexual assault detective called the mother back and scheduled an interview with the female student the next morning.
Initial report: "Students skipping school"
While the female student and her family waited at the hospital, the school resource officer and detectives were at Myers Park High School interviewing the male student.
The female student's parents said the school resource officer called just after 10:00 a.m. to say he had filed a report and there was no need for a sexual assault detective to go to the hospital.
Selvey, the CMPD major, said he was unaware of a call being made to the family that early. Cell phone records provided by the family show the call was made by someone using a Myers Park High School phone number but does not specify who made the call.
The public version of the initial report filed by the school resource officer shows the incident was classified as a non-criminal information report.
"On 11/3/2015 at 0700 hours the reporting person saw the witnesses skipping class at Myers Park High School," School Resource Officer BT Leake wrote in the brief description of the incident made available to the public.
A second comment would be added more than two weeks later, on November 18, by Detective CA Banner, who is the lead investigator on the case.
"On the listed date and time, the victim advised that she was sexually assaulted."
Selvey said the case was worked as a sexual assault investigation from day one, despite the fact that the original report was filed as a non-criminal information report.
"When we talk about what it's classified, I think that could be a misnomer because that's not how it was worked," Selvey said.
"When an officer initially gets a call for service and initially takes a report, they may not know all of the facts, they may not have everything," Selvey explained. "Especially in this case, based on the facts that this officer had, he wanted to document something but based on the facts that he had he didn't feel that it rose to the level of a sexual assault investigation."
Questions about the interview
Later on the night of the incident, the female student's mother would take her to the Providence CMPD substation and request a sexual assault detective come interview her daughter.
A different sexual assault investigator responded than the one with whom the mother had made the appointment for the next day.
The female student was interviewed by the detective alone. The interview was recorded.
In the days following that interview, the parents said, they pleaded with CMPD detectives and supervisors to do more to investigate their daughter's claim to little avail.
But that changed more than a week later, on November 11, with a call from Captain Cecil Brisbon.
The female student's parents recorded the conversation with Captain Brisbon and provided a copy of the recording to On Your Side Investigates.
"There are some questions I think [the detective] should have asked that he didn't and there is also just a lot of grey," Brisbon told the parents. "I don't know if it's grey because he's trying to be safe when talking to your daughter or not but with what I heard, there is enough for me to not have the level of comfort that I want to have."
Despite Brisbon's comments in the recorded phone call, Major Cam Selvey with CMPD said he saw nothing wrong with the interview when asked by On Your Side Investigates.
"Were there some problems with the interview that Detective Clark did?" Selvey was asked. "No, sir," Selvey responded. "None?" the reporter asked. "No, sir. I've watched it and I've listened to it. The captain over the unit has watched it and listened to it. The lieutenant over the unit has watched it and listened to it," Selvey replied.
When a reporter read a portion of Brisbon's remarks from the call to Selvey, the major said he did not believe they were accurate.
"I don't want to call anybody liars but I know that Captain Brisbon and Lieutenant Peacock met with the family on two occasions and what Captain Brisbon said—that was relayed to me—was 'I looked at it and I do have some more questions that I want to have answered' but that's common in any investigation. We always want to have all our answers and make sure that we've crossed every 't' and dotted every 'i'," Selvey said.
But that's not what Brisbon said on the phone with the female student's parents.
"We have a before and we have an after. We still have to figure out what the 'during' was," Brisbon told the parents. "That's the hardest part to capture because there is nobody else there. The only people who can give us that information are the two of them and in order to get that information, you've got to make sure we're not missing anything. I'll tell you, when I listen to the interview for myself, I felt like we missed something. It may be as simple as I didn't understand it but if I didn't understand it, I'm sure hard pressed to make you understand it."
Only after being told that On Your Side Investigates had listened to the recorded conversation and had a transcript did Selvey concede that, based on Brisbon's remarks, it would be understandable for the parents to thinking detectives had left many unanswered questions at the start of their investigation.
"The challenge that we face, like we do in many cases, is we have two different parties out there. They both agree something happened; the way that it happened is what's really up for debate, for question," Selvey said. "That's where we have to dig in and try to figure out whose perception is more accurate and that leads to some grey.
Selvey said the investigation into what happened in the woods behind Myers Park High School on the morning of November 3 is now classified as a sexual assault investigation and remains open.
"My sexual assault detectives take their jobs very seriously," he said.
But the female student who reported being sexually assaulted said she regrets going to the police.
"At first, I did, because they kind of made it seem like it was my fault," she said. "I don't trust them anymore.
Her father said he just wants justice for his daughter.
"The detectives for the sexual assault unit are supposed to be for the victim and it seems like she was the defendant," he said.
Selvey said he could not provide details of the ongoing investigation.
He did say, though, that detectives had interviewed the female student a second time.
It remains unclear if detectives have interview the male student accused of the sexual assault since interviewing the female student; something former prosecutor John Snyder said should be standard in an investigation.
"You take a statement from the victim and then you take a statement from the assailant and then, based on that, you make a decision about how you're going to proceed in the case," Snyder said.
Snyder is the former elected district attorney in Union County who is now in private practice. He is not affiliated with this case.
"It's not difficult to put [a sexual assault case] together because it's facts," he said. "You do the investigation, you interview the people, you make a decision based on the credibility of the witnesses, the physical evidence, the witness testimony and then you make a decision on whether you move forward or not."
Snyder said in cases where there are questions or controversy over what happened, he recommended police consult with prosecutors.
Selvey said CMPD does consult with prosecutors from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office on some cases. It is unclear whether or not prosecutors will be consulted in this case.
"My concern is that anybody who is a victim of any sexual assault, any sexual offense, any rape, please come forward because when they don't, when they don't feel like they can, when they don't have a voice, the most important thing for us is to be able to provide services to the victim—independent of any prosecution or catching any criminals," Selvey said. "It's a traumatic event, we take that seriously."
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