It was 1 a.m. Sunday when five masked individuals in white, long-sleeve shirts and pants – hands in their pockets – walked into USF student Tiffaney Hicks’ Cypress A dorm room while she studied.
Four black females walked into the bathroom as if looking for something, turned the lights off and looked through the belongings on Hicks’ desk, while one black male stayed at the main door of the suite, Hicks said.
The group stared at her but did not do anything other than “giggle.” Hicks said the incident lasted about two to three minutes.
“It was actually a traumatizing experience,” she said.
While visiting her friend Jessica Richemond’s suite next door, Jeanette Edmondson got a call from her roommate at 1:18 a.m.
Edmondson’s face went from “color to white” when she was on the phone, Richemond said.
“(Edmonson) said, ‘We have to go right now – there are people in the room attacking (my roommate),'” Richemond said.
According to a police report, the same masked group tried to enter Edmondson’s dorm room around 1 a.m. when Edmonson’s roommate, who did not want to be named, closed and locked the door.
As Richemond and Edmonson went to assist the roommate, the masked people were in the common area of Richemond’s suite, Richemond said.
Both girls ran back into the dorm room and struggled to close the door, Richemond said.
“(They) kept pushing, so we couldn’t lock it,” she said. “So, I pushed all my weight against the door and we locked it.”
Richemond said Edmonson called 911 around 1:47 a.m. and was transferred to University Police (UP) dispatch.
UP officers arrived on scene after the masked group left and began questioning Richemond and Edmonson about the incident.
Richemond said she had never seen the group before and tried to describe what they were wearing to UP.
“It all happened so fast,” she said.
The group did not say anything to either girl, Richemond said.
Another Cypress A resident, Nicole Kummer, said the same masked people entered her suite around 12:30 a.m. and turned off the lights.
“(Their masks) looked like a T-shirt – like they cut off a sleeve and made eye holes and then put it over their heads,” Kummer, a sophomore majoring in political science, said.
Three females in the group took off their masks and told Kummer and her friends that they lived on the third floor. Kummer said she would be able to identify them if she saw them.
“The whole vibe I got from it was it was just a big joke,” she said. “Like they were just sitting around bored and wanted something to do that was just kind of taken overboard and scared a lot of people.”
Kummer said the group stayed in the room for about 10 minutes. UP officers questioned her about the incident.
UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross said UP has no suspects.
Ross said there is no investigation because UP did not receive any leads. She said there were no damages or injuries reported.
Kummer, Richemond and Hicks said the main doors of their suites were unlocked.
Richemond said it is not unusual for the main door of the suite to be unlocked.
“Our floor is very relaxed,” she said. “We usually just left the door open, because it’s inconvenient to grab the extra set of keys.”
In each suite there are two bedrooms, each with their own door. These connect to a common area with bathrooms and a main door that leads to the hallway of the residence hall.
Richemond said after this incident, she plans to keep her dorm room locked.
“(We) felt really violated … They violated our space,” she said.
Students enter Cypress A, which is located on Maple Drive, using their student identification card, but there is no front desk assistant, and visitors do not have to sign in.
Richemond said she is concerned about her safety at the dorms now.
Hicks said the resident assistant on her floor was “nowhere to be found” on the night of the incident.
Residents of Cypress received an e-mail Monday from Residence Life Coordinator Greg Connell that described the incident as “a great example as to why it is important to lock your doors. Please, even when you are home, lock your bedroom doors for your safety.”
Connell and Director of Housing and Residential Education Dorothy Paine were unavailable for comment.
Hicks said the housing department should have sent someone to the residence hall immediately.
“When I think about this, I think about the Virginia Tech incident,” Hicks said.