Student recalls Lincoln Lurker experience

By Madison Lewis and Shaun Chornobroff

Two female Rider freshmen walked into Lincoln Hall in the late morning of Nov. 7, unsuspicious of an unknown man trailing behind them.

The unceasing commotion of the never- ending revolving door of students in the residence halls, as they rush to and from classes leaves the possibility of students instinctively holding the door open for someone they assume is their classmate.

“I didn’t think anything of it because it was a residence hall and many people live there,” said one of the freshmen that let the intruder in behind her.

When the man started to ascend towards the third floor, however, the young women had an uneasy feeling, though they were unaware of his motive, they said. They had never seen this man before, and not many people lived on their wing of Lincoln.

What followed was shocking.

‘I tried my best to stay calm’

One of the freshmen decided to check the peephole on her door, and that’s when she saw it: the man had one shoulder on the wall, and his hand was rapidly moving in front of his crotch.

“During this situation I tried my best to stay calm and told my roommate what I saw and called Public Safety to alert them,” said one of the freshmen, who did an email interview on Nov. 8 with The Rider News. The student requested anonymity to describe the incident.

Johnny Rodriguez-Brito, 26, of Ewing, New Jersey, was arrested on charges of third-degree burglary, peering — a fourth-degree offense under the umbrella of trespassing — and a charge of harassment, according to the Lawrence Township Police Department.

“I’m just glad he was caught and put in jail,” the freshman said. “No one should have to experience something like this.”

‘That was when we both started panicking.’

According to the freshman, one of the students had to act as a barricade due to their room not being able to be locked from the inside. The victim’s door had to be accessed through a pin on the inside of the door frame, but opening the door to secure the room was not a viable or safe option for the female students.

The freshman also said they observed the man looking under the door.

“I’m pretty sure he was able to see our shadows from underneath the door,” the freshman said. “That was when we both started panicking.”

Rodriguez-Brito was arrested and processed, but as a result of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office not filing a motion to detain him, Rodriguez-Brito was released while his trial awaits, according to Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Spokesperson Casey DeBlasio.

The prosecutor’s office was not able to provide The Rider News with Rodriguez-Brito’s mug
shot as a result of technical difficulties within the system. Neither Rider’s Public Safety or a university spokesperson had access to the photo.

“Report anything suspicious at any time right away so that it can be investigated,” said Kristine Brown, Rider’s associate vice president for university marketing and communications. “No matter where you are on campus or what you’re seeing or feeling, it’s better to contact Public Safety, have them look into it and be reassured that everything’s OK.”

The man claimed to be a delivery driver dropping off food, according to Public Safety, but the female freshmen suspected that this was a lie since the man was not in possession of any food and was exhibiting odd behaviors, such as lurking in front of the door.

“The man saw us walking to Lincoln and literally ran to catch the door before it closed. If he could do that, then anyone can get in without swiping an ID to unlock the door,” said one of the female freshmen who was followed into Lincoln.

When Public Safety was alerted of the incident and encountered the man, they escorted him off campus. At a later time Public Safety made the decision to contact the Lawrence Police Department for assistance, according to Public Safety Director James Waldon.

Later that night, Rodriguez-Brito was arrested on the trio of charges relating to the incident, according to Public Safety and Lawrence Police.

Remaining vigilant

Student Government Association President Andrew Bernstein encouraged his peers “to continue to report incidents of concern to Public Safety and to engage in practices that keep Rider safe, like fully closing residence hall doors upon exiting a building.” Rider’s Associate Dean for Residence Life Roberta Butler gave a simple message for the university community.

“We give the same information to students and staff. We ask that everyone remain vigilant,” said Butler. “Don’t hold doors for anyone you don’t know and lock your doors. If [you] see anything suspicious, call Public Safety to report it.”

Joseph Bennis, a freshman cybersecurity major and a resident of Lincoln Hall, commended Public Safety on their hasty response time and for their transparency in the following email that was sent warning students of the incident.

Bennis provided his input on how the school could prevent further incidents: “Dorm rooms [should] be unlocked with [the student’s] ID, just like how most hotel rooms are unlocked.”

In an effort to confirm her role in extinguishing Rider’s safety issues, Butler assures the students that she is training the community assistants.

“Unfortunately, situations like the one that just happened are not unique to Rider,” Butler said. “They do happen on campuses everywhere. It is always a reminder for us as a community of the part that we each play in managing the security of our communities. All areas of campus are invested in maintaining our security and we just need to continue to be vigilant.”

For one of the freshmen involved in the incident, it’s a lesson she now knows all too well and one she learned in a way she never hoped to.

“Pay attention to your surroundings,” she said. “If you notice something happening that usually doesn’t and you start getting a bad feeling, do something, because that’s your gut telling you something is off.”

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