Six weeks ago, fellow students informed Bwog of an incident near Low Library, in which NYPD officers arrested a man on the Columbia campus. Bwog’s delay in publishing this story was on account of waiting for information from the NYPD and Public Safety—the latter of whom sent Bwog a statement this past week.
On Wednesday, October 21 at around 3 pm, NYPD officers arrested a man on College Walk. Onlookers on Low steps described to Bwog in varying details that they saw the man and an officer in some sort of physical struggle on the lowest section of Low steps before the arrest occurred. The incident began on the left side of the steps near Kent Hall, and it involved only “two NYPD officers following this Black gentleman,” according to one of our witnesses. Two more witnesses, who were seated far up on the steps near the main entrance to Low Library, shared that the “white officer was being more aggressive with [the man]…” as the man “was trying to shimmy away every couple of steps,” saying ‘“don’t fucking touch me, I’m leaving.”’ Witnesses note that the man was not handcuffed at this point.
What happened next is unclear, as witness accounts differed depending on their positions on the steps. One of the aforementioned witnesses said they saw “the officer grab him” and it “looked to [them] that the man was trying to get away…but then he stumbled and fell [with the officer tumbling on top of him].” The other witness said it “looked like the cop tried to tackle him.” Hannah Saltz (BC ’24), who was seated on the right-hand side of the Alma Mater statue, shared a similar account with Bwog of the events, differing in that she “saw a policeman tackle [the man] down the stairs.” A different witness said that the man “got to the final set of stairs below Low, looked out at Broadway and 116th, made a couple of quick steps…[and then] the police officer grabbed him, the man panicked, and trying to get him off, they both slipped and tumbled down the stairs.” This witness said that next “the man wound up on top of the officer and was trying to pull his arms away from him, [and then] four officers pounced on him.” This witness shared that they were “directly behind them” and saw “the police officer lunge and grab his arm,” even though “no one was trying to push anyone down the stairs.” They also claim that “there’s no way they would’ve ended on top of each other if the police officer had not grabbed him.”
After the physical struggle, four police officers “pounced on him,” with the man’s binder flying and an officer neglecting to pick up all of his papers “until he was told to [by another officer].” It also appeared that the two original officers called for backup, given that four officers arrested the man and four police cars were present on campus at that time. One witness also claims that they saw the officers “reach for their tasers and their guns.” Public Safety officers seemed largely uninvolved in the incident but were “watching the whole thing” from the top of Low steps.
Witnesses filmed parts of the event and asked the police officers for their badge numbers; however, their requests went unanswered and ignored. Bwog attempted to cross-reference the video footage with NYPD badge numbers to find the identities of the officers but these efforts were unsuccessful due to the glare on the camera. The man who was arrested states his name to our witnesses, but due to low audio quality, we can not confirm the correct spelling of his name. Our best attempt at his name is “Dalia David Franco III,” but this has yet to be confirmed by NYPD. If you have any information about this man or his name, please contact us at email@example.com.
According to witnesses, a female officer attempted to calm the witnesses down and said that the man would be taken to the 26th precinct. The officers then put the man into a cop car, with one officer raising the hand of the officer involved in the physical struggle as if he was checking to see if that officer had any injuries. Our witnesses stated that it’s “hard when you’re in [an intense] situation to get an idea of what is going on… it just happened so quickly.” Another witness ended our interview with the comment that “part of the issue is if you’re white, you can get into any building you want.” “It’s about who fits the profile of a Columbia student.”
Bwog was not present to witness the events that occurred that day, but we appreciate the several eyewitness accounts that help paint a rough outline of what happened. Most of our witnesses decided to remain anonymous for their own safety.
NYPD presence on campus is a rare sight—as most on-campus situations are handled by Columbia Public Safety. Because of this rarity, it is essential that we, as a community, stay aware and keep each other informed of past and future events of similar circumstances. If you have any information regarding this situation on October 21 or other instances of NYPD officers on campus, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia Public Safety said in a statement to Bwog that the man arrested is not affiliated with Columbia and had been arrested after causing a “disturbance.” He had been banned from Columbia University-owned property after allegedly trespassing three times: October 21, 2020, earlier in October 2020, and once last year. Bwog has reached out to Public Safety, NYPD, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for more information about what the man had allegedly done that had been considered a disturbance on the day of the arrest and on previous occasions; however, Bwog has only received such clarification from Public Safety, who said that the man refused to leave a non-public area of the Law School in 2019 and was also found in the John Jay dining area in early October. NYPD confirmed the arrest over the phone but refused to comment on the reason for the arrest and has yet to clarify the name of the man by email.
Columbia Public Safety’s October 21 statement to Bwog can be found in full below:
The man who entered Low Library this afternoon and caused a disturbance is not affiliated with Columbia. He was taken to the local precinct by NYPD officers. Twice before, once in 2019 and again earlier this month, the individual was banned from all University-owned property for trespassing.
Columbia Public Safety’s November 24 statement to Bwog can be found in full below:
The person who was arrested on October 21st for trespassing was not affiliated with the university, either as a former student or employee. He had previously twice been designated “persona non grata” or PNG on our campus. This occurred for the first time in February 2019 when he was present in a non-public area of the Law School building where he was not allowed to be and refused to leave. Once an individual is designated PNG, that individual is banned from all University-owned property and it is considered trespassing if they return to any part of campus (public or private). Then, earlier last month, another incident occurred prompting a second notice of his PNG status: he was found trespassing in the John Jay dining area. Finally, when he entered the Public Safety Operations Center in Low Library on the 21st and a disturbance occurred, this history became apparent and informed the actions that followed. Specifically, the NYPD responded and removed him from campus.
Public Safety officers can ask a person to leave campus when it becomes known that the individual was previously informed that their access to campus is restricted or prohibited. Often that occurs in connection with a disturbance or other misconduct. That was the case in this matter.
Low Steps via Bwog Archives