Carleton Security Services have recently received reports of a suspicious man on campus following and exposing himself to students. The man was later identified as Gary Burnette, Jr. Security is working with the Northfield Police Department on the issue.
The first incident came in mid-November when students called in a case of indecent exposure. In a November 6, 2018 email, Blake Held, then-Acting Director of Security Services, noted that Burnette, Jr. approached and asked students for information around the Gould Library and Weitz Center for Creativity. It was also recalled that the man pulled down his pants and exposed himself to those he approached.
“Security Services has been actively working to address this person’s behavior since the November 6 incident,” Held said. “Our primary goal is to keep the Carleton community safe, a goal we cannot accomplish without the involvement of our entire community. We have released information related to incidents identified as involving the man in question. Our messaging includes tips for individuals to keep themselves safe.”
Security was made aware of a second incident on February 1 in which Burnette, Jr. followed students around the area of 3rd Street and College or Union Streets. Students soon after reported a second sighting in the same area.
In regards to maintaining personal safety, Security Services has urged students to “avoid walking alone, especially at night; being aware of one’s surroundings; [and] not engaging when someone you don’t recognize approaches,” said John Bermel, current Director of Security. “Taking these personal security measures is empowering.”
Security Services followed up the February 1 announcement with a February 7 email providing further details of the situation and outlining additional ways students can protect themselves from suspicious figures on campus. The email was the first instance of Security identifying the man to students on campus as Burnette, Jr. Security also noted that they issued to Burnette, Jr. a “Stay Off” notice.
“While we are working with the Northfield Police, it is important to understand that neither Security nor the Police can prevent someone from setting foot on campus,” the email stated. “However, we can react when such a Stay Off order has been issued and we are made aware of the infraction swiftly and have sufficient information including a location, description and details about the behavior. It is also very important to report any criminal behavior, whether on campus or in the vicinity of campus.”
Bermel explained that violating a Stay Off order could result in legal repercussions for Burnette, Jr.
“Violation of the … order could result in a trespassing charge,” he said. “In Minnesota, trespassing is a misdemeanor offense, which results in a citation and a court appearance.”
Security Services added that investigation into the issue didn’t yield an indecent exposure criminal charge, “which likely means the behavior didn’t meet the legal elements required to pursue prosecution,” Bermel said. They are also, along with the Northfield Police, doing extra patrols in the campus area.
It is strongly encouraged for students to call Security Services (507-222-4444) or the Northfield Police (911) if they happen to notice the man in question or any other suspicious figures or unsafe individuals. Security Services also mentioned that they are willing to provide a walking escort for students anywhere on campus.
“It is important to report any criminal behavior, whether on or in the vicinity of campus,” Bermel said. “Carleton security and the police department are greatly assisted by timely reports of suspicious behavior and participation in the investigative process in order to be effective in addressing safety concerns on campus.”