Leg wound

Students accuse DPS officer of assault

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan and co-written with Allison Croley. For original, please refer to: Students accuse DPS officer of assault – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Leg wound

via Julian Benfey


A Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer has been accused of assaulting a freshman student. The allegation, which is being brought forward by the student, freshman management major Julian Benfey, and his roommate, freshman theatre arts major Eli Cusick, is currently undergoing “a full and fair and thorough investigation,” according to DPS Chief Hampton Cantrell.

The incident, which according to multiple sources happened at approximately 4:30 a.m. last Friday, was captured on video by Cusick. The Loyolan has viewed the video, which depicts an officer, identified by Benfey and Cusick as DPS Lieutenant Derrick Dodson, tackling Benfey to the ground and restraining him with handcuffs.

Officers responding to what Cantrell called “a drug activity call” knocked on three different doors in Huesman Hall with Resident Director Trammell Jones, the third of which was Benfey and Cusick’s room, number 103. According to Cusick, officers searched the room because a marijuana smell had been detected in Huesman. After being woken up by officers, according to Benfey and Cusick, the two residents complied and left the room. Benfey attempted to take his backpack with him, at which point officers asked to search the bag.

Upon searching the bag, officers found what Benfey and Cusick described as “a gram of [marijuana]” in a pill bottle, allegedly still in the bag after Benfey’s attendance at Coachella Music Festival.

“[We] were saying how this wasn’t allowed, how you can’t just come into someone’s dorm at 4:30 in the morning … and accuse them of doing illegal activities when they’re fast asleep,” Cusick said.

As an officer continued to search the bag and Benfey started shouting at the officers, using profane language, Cusick began recording the event on his phone camera.

According to the video, Benfey requested to take his anti-anxiety medication, which he claimed was in the bag. Officers did not permit Benfey access to his backpack despite this request, according to Benfey. When Benfey attempted to reach for the bag, as depicted in the video, he was strongly guided away by Dodson, to which he responded “Don’t [expletive] touch me,” and shoved Dodson away. According to the video, Dodson responded by tackling Benfey to the ground and handcuffing him. Benfey attempted to stand up, but as depicted in the video, was shoved back onto the ground by Dodson.

Benfey continued to shout at the officers, saying to Dodson, “I pay $55,000 dollars to go here and I’m [expletive] handcuffed outside my [expletive] door right now,” according to the video. After Benfey attempted to stand up again, as depicted in the video, Dodson pinned Benfey into a wall with his hip and held him there for a full minute. At some point during the incident, Benfey claimed, he sustained a minor knee abrasion, as depicted in the image above.

Throughout the altercation, Benfey and Cusick continued to shout at the two officers, as well as at all sleeping residents in Huesman, imploring them to wake up. Cusick was momentarily blocked from filming by an unidentified DPS officer who refused to give his name.

“A [DPS] officer tried to knock my camera out of my hand, saying he was allowed to do so and stop me from filming,” Cusick said, despite Jones’ earlier claim that Cusick could continue filming.

As depicted at approximately the four-minute mark in the video, Dodson released Benfey from holding him against the wall, while keeping him handcuffed. At this point, Jones escorted Benfey down the hall and Cusick stopped filming.

After searching the room for what Cusick recalled as approximately an hour, and allegedly finding no further drugs or paraphernalia beyond the aforementioned marijuana in either Benfey’s bag or the room, the officers reportedly left around 5:30 a.m.

When asked about the policy regarding searching students’ rooms and bags, Cantrell referred the Loyolan to the Residence Life policy that states that rooms can be searched with reason to believe there is a concern about health and safety standards, or if a breach of University policy is suspected.

“Generally, we do conduct searches that are room searches and any reasonable implements – drawers, bags that may be in the room,” Cantrell said. When asked about bags specifically outside of the room, Cantrell said that search procedure “depends on the circumstances.”

Since the time of the incident, Benfey and Cusick have shown the video to a number of campus officials, including, reportedly, Vice President of Student Affairs Lane Bove, Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Hellige and DPS Captain Cristina Martin. Cantrell would only confirm his knowledge of the video, but would not comment on whether he had viewed it. Benfey claimed he met with Bove personally last Tuesday, May 7.

“Honestly, I was in such a psychological state that I couldn’t focus on my exams until I received a direct apology from a qualified representative,” Benfey said. “Although it didn’t reconcile the situation, as you could assume, a direct apology does make a difference after being humiliated.”

Benfey and Cusick claimed that Dodson has been put on administrative leave without pay, but Cantrell refused to confirm either Dodson’s identity or status. Benfey left the University with his father, Dr. Philip Benfey of Duke University, on Wednesday, May 8, after taking his last final exam. Cusick left the University this morning.

Cantrell declined to comment on specifics for this story beyond confirming an ongoing investigation. Requests for comment to Martin and Jones were not returned by publication time.

Caserio to assume role of ASLMU president

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan and co-written with Allison Croley. For original, please refer to: Caserio to assume role of ASLMU president – Los Angeles Loyolan.

As senior marketing major Bryan Ruiz’s era as ASLMU president ends, the LMU student body will have to look to former ASLMU Vice President and senior sociology major Vinnie Caserio, the new ASLMU president, as ASLMU pushes forward.

“There will be a lot of people with a lot of questions,” said Dan Faill, assistant director of Student Leadership and Development (SLD) and Greek Life adviser. “And my sincere hope is that Vinnie will be up to the task of conducting himself and [ASLMU] to the best of his ability.”

One of Caserio’s first tasks will be to refocus ASLMU as the voice of LMU’s student body. The impeachment complaint and subsequent unrelated removal of Ruiz has brought dispute not only between members of the organizations involved, but between other students as well. Status updates on both the ASLMU and Loyolan Facebook pages quickly filled with comments ranging from students arguing the validity of the impeachment complaint to whether the University should have removed Ruiz.

Senior political science major Sarah Palacios, ASLMU’s attorney general, told the Loyolan that Caserio’s ability to bring students together will be vital during this period of transition. “Vinnie was elected for a reason. He has this strength to unite people. It’s unparalleled,” she said.

Caserio’s time to unite is short, however. According to the ASLMU website, campaigns for the 2013-14 election are already undergoing approval, and platforms will be posted this Thursday, Feb. 28. Elections will be held from March 19-21, and results will be posted at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 21. Though the ASLMU president and vice president don’t officially transition until commencement, according to Director of SLD Andrea Niemi, this still only leaves Caserio with a few weeks before elections to seize the spotlight.

Still, according to Assistant Director of SLD and ASLMU Adviser Alexandra Froehlich, Caserio will make the most of the time he has. “One thing I’ve learned about Vinnie this entire year is that he will step up to the plate and try everything,” Froelich said.

Palacios was optimistic, saying, “[This] is about moving forward and about what Vinnie will continue to do.”

ASLMU Treasurer and junior mathematics major Anna Keathley agreed, saying, “Vinnie has a spirit that lights up a room, and Vinnie is the perfect person to support ASLMU and the rest of the student body through this process.”

The spring semester of ASLMU’s schedule is notable for March’s Collegefest, the annual spring concert that has in the past brought acts like The Bravery and Gym Class Heroes to LMU. Though ASLMU may be transitioning leaders as Collegefest rapidly approaches, Froehlich said she has faith the planning would proceed properly.

“One thing I’ve learned about ASLMU is while I’d love to pretend that the president and vice president do everything, that’s not the case,” Froehlich said. “Collegefest will still happen.”

Though a change in leadership at a crucial time can be intimidating, members of ASLMU have faith that things will progress as they should.“We’re a team, and we look forward to providing the students with great memories,” Palacios said of ASLMU going forward. “That’s really what we’re looking forward to.”

“You know, we might lose people here and there, I won’t lie,” Froehlich admitted. “But for the most part, they are an amazing group of people. They will keep going.”