A witness to an incident involving a Harvard security guard and a Black Graduate School of Education student said the stories of two witnesses which led to the guard's suspension last week were incorrect.
The guard, Stephen G. McCombe, allegedly raised his voice and acted "hostile and belligerent" towards third-year Graduate School of Education doctoral candidate Richard Rakobane while the student sat by his car on Appian Way on September 8, according to the confidential report on the incident obtained by The Crimson last week.
In interviews on Thursday and Friday, U.S. Postal Service Employee Paul Shannon contradicted the statements of Rakobane and the other witnesses. Although he also didn't hear the actual conversation, Shannon said McCombe did not raise his voice as he approached the student.
"The guard was not gruff or intimidating," Shannon said. "He wasn't in the man's face. He was more like, 'What are you doing?....I didn't see any aggression."
According to Shannon, that afternoon he was unloading mail from his mail truck on Appian Way, parked 30 to 40 feet in back of Rakobane's car, when he saw the guard come out of Larsen Hall.
When the guard went to talk to Rakobane, Shannon said he started to cross the street, headed toward Longfellow Hall to drop off his mail. He said he saw and heard McCombe and Rakobane talking.
"There was no yelling going on when I was anywhere in the area," Shannon said. Shannon said he was within hearing distance for at least the first part of the encounter, until he entered Longfellow Hall about a minute later.
"I've seen him yell at people [who parked illegally]," said Shannon, who said he had seen and exchanged small talk with McCombe previously while delivering mail on campus. "When he wants to yell, he can."
But another witness, Education School student Lee-Beng Chua, said in a University report on the incident and maintained in an interview on Sunday, that McCombe was yelling at the student.
"My attention was caught to the incident by the shouting," Chua said in an interview Sunday night. He said he was walking toward Gutman Library at the time of the incident. "I stopped and tried to see what had happened....It was the loudness that caught my attention."
University Mail handler Wayne Battle, the third witness, said in an interview last week that the guard didn't yell but rather was engaged in a heated exchange with the student.
"I heard a lot of things, but I really can't say what they were now," Battle said.
But Shannon alleged that Battle could not have even been a witness to the incident.
"Wayne was nowhere to be seen [during the incident]," Shannon said.
Shannon said he emerged from Longfellow Hallafter several minutes, having finished droppingoff his mail. He said he then saw Battle come outof a building further down the street, away fromthe scene of the incident. Battle started comingup Appian Way, "as if he was going back to work,"Shannon said.
"How Wayne can be a witness is beyond me," saidShannon, who knows Battle from work. "He wouldhave needed binoculars and a microphone to haveseen [the incident] at the end of the street."
Shannon said he hailed Battle on the sidewalkand told him that his mail was waiting for him tosort in Longfellow Hall. Shannon then mentionedwhat had occurred between the guard and thestudent. According to Shannon, Battle was ignorantof the incident.
"If he knew what had happened, why did he askme what the guard had said?" Shannon said. "Hedidn't know anything that occurred. He was unawarethere had been a confrontation."
Battle, reached yesterday at the Byerly Hallmail room where he works, would not comment onShannon's allegations.
"I don't even know Paul Shannon," Battle said."Oh him!" he said later.
McCombe, Chua and Helen Snively, a friend ofRakobane's who came to the scene after thealleged harassment took place, said that theycouldn't remember if Battle was there or not.
According to the University report on theincident which The Crimson obtained, McCombe toldAssociate Dean for Medical School Faculty AffairsMargaret L. Dale, who investigated the incidentfor the University, that Shannon had witnessed theincident and requested that he be interviewed.
"It was not possible, however, to arrange aninterview with him [Shannon] despite repeatedtelephone call and a letter," the report says.
A letter written by University Attorney RobertW. Iuliano, which was dated November 30, says thatKristen Morris, a paralegal in the Office of theGeneral Counsel, "attempted repeatedly but withoutsuccess to reach [Shannon] over the last week."
"We're not in a position to discuss in detailthis case because it relates to an internaldisciplinary matter relating to an employee of theUniversity," Iuliano said in an interviewyesterday.
"We are completely confident that thisinvestigation was as thorough, fair and impartialas it could be," he said.
Morris and Dale did not return repeated phonecalls to their offices yesterday.
Shannon said he knew that he received messagesfrom the General Counsel's Office. He said hereturned Morris' calls at least six times. But hesaid the General Counsel's Office was unwilling toaccommodate his work schedule--which wastremendously busy during the Christmas season.
"I was working 12 hours a day, six or sevendays a week," Shannon said. "If it was on theclock, I needed a conversation with [mysupervisor]. I had to be able to do my job; Ican't compromise my job."
Although he received a dozen calls from Morristhroughout December, Shannon said she didn'tcontact him in January or February--even thoughthe report was officially completed on February21.
Shannon said he had forgotten about the wholething by February